UK Men's Basketball

UK's Miller steps up at the right time

When someone told Darius Miller after the game that he scored a career-high 20 points against Wake Forest, he was surprised.

That made it unanimous.

His teammates acknowledged their pleasant surprise that Miller, a season-long study in prudence, busted out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't know who he talked to before (the game)," Patrick Patterson said. "I don't know what he did before. I don't know what he ate."

Just do it again, Patterson implied.

When told of Patterson's comment, Miller laughed and said he ate his normal pre-game meal. He attributed his 7-for-9 shooting and assertive play to simply exploiting a Wake Forest defense trying to contain other UK players.

"I just tried to take advantage of lanes they provided me by leaving me and helping on John (Wall) and Pat," he said.

Speaking of exploitation, Wall saw Miller get off to a good start (nine of Kentucky's first 12 points) and tried to feed the hot hand.

"He can be kind of laid back and shy about it," Wall said. "He came out making shots. I said to myself, 'Why go away from him when he's hot?' He wasn't even hesitating. He was taking it to the basket.

"I told him we're going to need him in this tournament. I think he just put it in himself that he can play basketball."

Jay Bilas, who provided commentary on the games in New Orleans for CBS and will work the East Regional games in Syracuse, lauded Miller's efficient play.

"I thought he was terrific," Bilas said. "He was aggressive and patient at the same time. When it was there, he took it. When it wasn't, he didn't. He played a mature game."

To Bilas, Miller epitomized the heady, mature play Kentucky demonstrated in routing East Tennessee State and Wake Forest in New Orleans.

"When Wall didn't have it, he gave it up," Bilas said. "All of them did. Miller was the guy who had some additional openings. It happens in certain games. That's not the first time at Kentucky their fifth option got 20 in a game."

That Miller took such advantage of the opportunities was something, if not novel, then certainly unusual.

But, Bilas added, neither Miller nor his teammates should expect a steady diet of 20-point games from the former Kentucky Mr. Basketball. Such an expectation might move Miller out of his complementary role.

"If you have a guy expecting 20 a game, you don't want that," Bilas said. "You don't want anybody forcing anything. Not just him. Anybody on the team."

Miller would seem to be the last player likely to force the issue. If anything, UK Coach John Calipari would want Miller to be more aggressive. Calipari called for that more than once this season.

Miller joined some of his teammates in noting the benefit of watching highlight videos. More than one UK player said that Calipari ordered videos made for each player. Each was a greatest hits package of good plays throughout the season.

"That might have helped get my mind right," Miller said.

Of course, such videos are an extension of the kind of positive thinking coaches have been preaching for years.

"Sports psychologists talk about positive visualization," Bilas said. "Well, what's more positive than watching yourself do it on film? You're not just imagining yourself doing it, you're seeing yourself do it. I not only can do this, I have done this.

"That's positive visualization it its purest form."

After Miller scored 20 points against Wake Forest, his teammates visualized a lot of positives going forward.

"I don't know what happened to Darius, but I hope he keeps it up," DeMarcus Cousins said. "When he plays aggressively like that, it helps our team tremendously.

"It's going to be hard to beat us."