UK Men's Basketball

Turnovers still dog the Cats

Going into last weekend's play, Kentucky led the nation in shooting accuracy and ranked second in preventing the opposition from shooting accurately.

Those statistics said something quite different from UK Coach Billy Gillispie on Monday.

As Kentucky prepared to head for Mississippi ahead of a snowstorm, Gillispie saw plenty of room for improvement.

The most obvious area is turnovers, a deficiency made more apparent at Alabama last weekend. Gillispie took no solace in beating Bama despite his team's 23 turnovers. The Cats cracked The Associated Press Top 25 this week despite being ranked 322nd (out of 330 Division I teams) in turnovers a game.

When asked about winning (a gaudy 16-4 record) despite the turnovers, Gillispie said, "It's not going to last much longer. We were very lucky to win on Saturday."

He attributed the turnovers to ill-advised decisions, "sloppiness" and what sounded like overconfidence.

"Acting like (the defender) doesn't exist sometimes and they take the ball from us," was how Gillispie put it.

When asked later at the news conference if overconfidence (perhaps built on the Southeastern Conference's only unbeaten record at 5-0) might be a concern, Gillispie shook his head.

"I don't think that's going to be a problem," he said.

Gillispie cited the intense and constant fan/media interest, which gives the players practice at concentrating on what's said internally.

"Pretty good training," Gillispie said. "We need to listen to what our group is saying."

Gillispie's comments contrasted with the flattering statistics and Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy's public statements.

Kennedy, whose injury-riddled team has lost three straight and four of its last five games, marveled at Kentucky's efficient offense.

"Very good role definition," Kennedy said. " ... It's a great mix that complements one another well. Where one guy is weak, another guy is strong."

The strongest of the strong are guard Jodie Meeks and big man Patrick Patterson.

Kennedy called Meeks "a legitimate Player of the Year candidate." He called Meeks' play in the last 10 games, which includes a scoring average of 27.1 points and 56.8 percent shooting from three-point range, "quite ridiculous."

Patterson is one of the "elite post men" in the country, Kennedy said. He hopes to contain the Cats with a defense that ranks 257th in points allowed and 231st in opponents' shooting.

Injuries decimated an Ole Miss backcourt that might have been one of the SEC's best.

During the first two weeks of the season, Trevor Gaskins tore an ACL in his left knee, and Eniel Polynice did damage to cartilage in his left knee. Gaskins would have given Ole Miss a victory over UK last season if he had made a last-second three-point shot.

Then point guard Chris Warren tore the ACL in his left knee against Louisville on Dec. 18.

The Rebels might have felt jinxed when the new point guard, freshman Terrico White, sustained a bone bruise on a knee at South Carolina Saturday. He is listed as day to day.

"We've had to reinvent ourselves a couple of times," Kennedy said. "Probably the most frustrating thing as a coach is you don't want young players to be confused, which leads to hesitancy. But we had to change our style of play a number of times based on our personnel issues."

White, a freshman from Memphis, has played well. His 13.4-point average in league play ranks 12th.

His backup is another freshman, Will Bogan.

Despite the Rebels' depleted roster (five freshmen and two sophomores are among the nine healthy scholarship players), Gillispie expects a fight.

"They're very, very tough," he said. "They have to be very mentally tough. They're right there against every team. ... No matter who (Kennedy) puts on the floor, he's got them to play with maximum effort."

Plus Gillispie reminded reporters that all the hoopla about Meeks obscured the league's second-leading scorer, Ole Miss guard David Huertas with a 19.5 average.

"We'll have to match their intensity," Gillispie said. "No matter the circumstances they're put in, it will be a very competitive team out there."

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