UK Men's Basketball

Gillispie sees dangerin 'peppy' Tigers

For its trip to Kentucky, Auburn rode the enthusiasm of a 14-point victory over its archrival.

"It gives you energy (and) enthusiasm," Coach Jeff Lebo said on Monday. "I'm very happy with that 'W.' "

Auburn beat Alabama 85-71 on Saturday. Lebo noted how the victory made his Tigers "peppy" in practice.

"We practiced in the morning," he said. "Usually, morning ones are not too peppy. The kids worked awfully hard."

UK Coach Billy Gillispie's customary wariness about the next opponent included noting that all but one of Auburn's losses came by seven points or less.

"They could be 3-0 in the (Southeastern) conference very easily," the UK coach said.

Gillispie likened more than one Auburn guard to Jodie Meeks. "Some of their guys are similar to Jodie," he said. "Very athletic. Can shoot the three. If you guard them too close, they can drive it and finish."

Although Gillispie noted Auburn's 10-for-20 three-point shooting against Alabama, the Tigers have mostly struggled with perimeter shooting (10th in the SEC in three-point accuracy in all games at 31.9 percent).

Quantez Robertson, a career 33.6-percent three-point shooter going into this season, has hit only 18.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. In one six-game stretch, he missed all 14 attempts.

The X-factor might be junior college transfer Tay Waller. Billed as a sharpshooter, he made six of eight threes against Alabama. In the previous four games, he made only six of 29 attempts.

"He gives us a guy on the perimeter you have to defend differently," Lebo said earlier this month. "He can flat-out get it going from three. He's always a threat. It opens up a lot of things for other players."

One of those players is forward Korvotney Barber, who grabbed 18 rebounds at South Carolina and has averaged a double-double (12.3 points and 11.4 rebounds) in the last eight games.

Gillispie noted Auburn's defense as largely improved. NCAA statistics through Jan. 15 ranked Auburn 27th nationally in holding opponents to 38.4-percent shooting and fourth in steals (10.4 per game).

Patterson's fingers

In hopes of restoring his usual production, UK will change the taping of Patrick Patterson's injured fingers.

Gillispie said only one finger will be taped rather than two being wrapped together. The hope is the new taping will bring more flexibility to the fingers on his shooting hand. Two sets of X-rays revealed no serious injury, the UK coach said, "just a difficult, nagging situation.

"He'll play through it. We'll take all the precautions we need to."

Patterson, who led the nation in shooting accuracy earlier this season, made only 10 of 23 shots last week against Tennessee and Georgia.

"It affects how he's gripping the basketball," Gillispie said. "Shooting. Maybe catching."

'Historic' inaugural

Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States met with Ramon Harris' approval.

"People think it's historic for African-Americans," he said. "But I believe it's historic for all people. ...

"Today was a very big day for me. Anything is possible."

Silence is golden

Gillispie dismissed the importance of not being ranked in this week's polls. He stressed the importance of not drawing attention with public comments by quoting the iconic pro football coach Paul Brown.

"I'm going to try to say it every single day to someone," the UK coach said. "When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say even less."

That advice would help in all aspects of life, Gillispie said, before adding, "I'd probably still be married if I'd done that."

Rupp atmosphere

Auburn starts three seniors and two juniors. Its first eight include three seniors and four juniors.

Yet Lebo isn't discounting the intimidation factor that comes with playing in Rupp Arena.

"Oh, it's just a huge advantage," said the Auburn coach, who likened the experience to his playing days for North Carolina. "Sometimes when I was playing, you could look at the other end in warmups and tell by the mannerisms they were already beat."

Lebo said he would reassure his players that Kentucky can lose at home by showing them tapes of victories here by Virginia Military Institute and Miami. "Because you don't want to get beat before you start," he said.

Etc.

UK has won nine straight against Auburn and 23 of the past 24 meetings. Auburn hasn't won at UK in 20 years, with the Tigers' only two victories here coming in 1983 and 1988. ... Tom Hammond and Rupp Runt Larry Conley will call the game for the SEC TV network.

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