Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson have taken Kentucky a long way so far this season. But for the Cats to go as far as possible, UK Coach Billy Gillispie put the onus on four of the dynamic duo's teammates.
"The only way we can reach our potential — and I think our potential is very high — but I don't think our potential can be reached if DeAndre Liggins is not playing," Gillispie said on Friday, "if Josh (Harrellson) is not playing. If A.J. (Stewart) and Darius (Miller) are doing just a little bit."
Of the four, Miller contributed the most at Tennessee. His seven points marked his highest total since scoring 13 against Delaware State on Nov. 22. He also held his own when defending UT's Tyler Smith, the pre-season choice for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
"Tremendous," Gillispie said before adding, "I just want to see it every single day."
The UK coach said each of the four players were "overdue" for increased productivity. "Those guys have to change and be very good players day by day," Gillispie said.
The four went to Georgia averaging a collective — and forgettable — 10.5 points per game in SEC play. They had made only five of 22 shots (two of nine from three-point range) while amassing an assist-to-turnover ratio of three-to-nine.
Harrellson excited fans early when he scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Longwood, then had a double-double against West Virginia (12 points, 10 rebounds).
However, he did not get off the bench at Tennessee.
"I don't think he's been showing us what we need to see," Gillispie said. " ... He has to be a tougher interior player. Be more aware. Play with more confidence.
"That can be said of all those guys."
Gillispie suggested that some players — presumably the four he singled out — too readily accepted minor roles.
"Easier than going out and competing," the UK coach said.
"Now is the time teams start taking off."
Of the four players he wants to emerge, Gillispie said, "there's too much lurking. We need some front-line action."
Georgia: 'Good team'
Although Georgia is the only team in the SEC Eastern Division without a victory, Gillispie labeled the Bulldogs a "good team."
The UK coach noted Georgia's second-half leads against such teams as Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
"It's a team just waiting for something good to happen for them," Gillispie said.
One good thing would be to reduce turnovers. Through two league games, Georgia and Auburn had the most turnovers with 37 each.
Only UK's average of 17.9 turnovers in all games exceeds Georgia's 17.1.
Georgia committed 12 second-half turnovers against Georgia Tech.
More than once this week, Gillispie mentioned how Georgia beat UK in the SEC Tournament last spring. But the UK coach pooh-poohed revenge as a motivation.
"I want to be the guy that beat you last year and you had to think about it all year long," he said.
Georgia barely resembles the team that beat Kentucky last March. Terrance Woodbury is the only returner who had a double-digit scoring average last season.
Gone is Mr. Everything Sundiata Gaines, who led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. Also gone are center Dave Bliss and three-point shooter Billy Humphrey.
Georgia's Howard "Trey" Thompkins is one of the most productive freshmen in the SEC. Among freshmen, he ranks second only to Arkansas' Courtney Fortson in scoring and second only to Alabama's JaMychal Green in rebounding and blocked shots.
Thompkins leads all SEC freshmen with 46.8-percent shooting accuracy.
"He's doing fantastic," Georgia Coach Dennis Felton said of Thompkins before SEC play began last week. "I'm proud of him and extremely impressed by what he's able to accomplish."
Thompkins, a highly regarded 6-9 prospect from Lithonia, Ga., missed the season's first four games because of a high ankle sprain. That was the third in a series of injuries that severely limited his pre-season work.
"To jump in without any preparation, without any conditioning ... really speaks to his talent," Felton said. "He's going to be a terrific player."
A limited number of tickets are available for Wednesday's home game against Auburn. Tickets can be bought by calling 1-800-928-2287 or 859-233-3535 or via the Internet (UKathletics.com or Ticketmaster.com). ... Dave Neal and Rupp Runt Larry Conley will call the game.