UK Men's Basketball

Cats try to cool trigger fingers

With apologies to Super Bowl halftime rocker Bruce Springsteen, it's not his controversial song 41 shots that plays on Billy Gillispie's mind these days.

It's 29 shots that concern Kentucky's basketball coach this Super Bowl weekend. That's the number of shots he counted UK taking after only one pass or no passes in the loss at Mississippi on Tuesday.

The quick-draw display hurt Kentucky's offense (limiting the number of times big man Patrick Patterson got the ball) and Kentucky's defense (Ole Miss didn't have to expend much energy on defense, giving the Rebels more pep to their offense).

"We played right into their hands," Gillispie said.

So Kentucky looks for better shot selection and a more diversified attack going forward, beginning with Saturday's game against South Carolina.

Gillispie noted how Ole Miss concentrated its defense on Jodie Meeks, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer, and Patterson. That left the other three starters — Michael Porter, Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson — free to shoot from the perimeter.

The defenders on freshmen Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins could also keep an eye on Meeks and Patterson.

"They're great players," Miller said of Patterson and Meeks, "but it can't be two against five."

By averaging 31 points in the first five SEC games, Meeks covered for his non-threatening teammates. But when Ole Miss contained Meeks, the Cats did not execute a Plan B.

"We can't expect him to be Superman," Porter said of Meeks. "Although he has played about as good as a player can play, we still have to pull our weight."

Gillispie welcomed the likelihood that opponents will play off all of his players except Meeks and Patterson.

"I think it's great for us," the UK coach said. "I have confidence in those guys (to) make shots and make plays."

Gillispie said Porter had "already proven" an ability to make shots. Porter is shooting 32.9 percent (27.9 percent from three-point range). Harris could also make shots, the UK coach said. Harris is shooting 17.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Liggins (17.5 percent on threes) and Miller (21.9 percent on threes) are still learning, Gillispie said.

The UK coach stressed shot selection. Or, as he put it, knowing "when to go and when to whoa."

Gillispie wanted to pull up on the reins at Ole Miss when he saw the Cats shoot three-pointers on the fast break deep in the second half with the game on the line.

"We're not a team that needs to shoot a lot of threes in transition," he said. "That's not our game. We need to attack the basket."

South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn noticed how Ole Miss concentrated its defense on Meeks and Patterson. But Horn, the former Tates Creek High star, saw another key element.

"They didn't give them too many easy baskets ... ," he said, "where I think Kentucky is most dangerous because they're so long and athletic."

Kentucky's quick shooting made a box-and-one defense irrelevant.

"The way we've been playing offense lately, there's no reason to box-and-one," Gillispie said. "You can do the same thing in a man(-to-man): just deny Jodie. That's what you do in a box-and-one."

But if teams want to concentrate on Meeks and Patterson, that's fine with Gillispie.

"A lot of that kind of plays into our hands if we're smart enough to allow it to play into our hands," the UK coach said. He said the Cats could use patience on offense to rest, then use the energy on the No. 1 priority: defense.

"The best possession takes 25 seconds, and you get a basket," Gillispie said. "The next-best possession takes 25 or 30 seconds and you get a good shot.

"The thing about the other night is we didn't do a very good job of guarding them because we were shooting too quick. ...

"With a player as good as Patrick, we need to explore and probe. And we haven't been doing that nearly enough."

When asked how he wanted his players to react to the first SEC loss, Gillispie seemed to begin a thoughtful response before blurting out, "Be madder than hell is what I want."

But, he added, "mad doesn't get it done. Mad doesn't correct anything. I hope they understand the reason it did happen."

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