UK Men's Basketball

Notes: Hood has fun, makes strides

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jon Hood looked to pass in traffic during Saturday's victory against LSU.
Kentucky Wildcats guard Jon Hood looked to pass in traffic during Saturday's victory against LSU.

He jumped up in a crowd and grabbed an offensive rebound. He gathered himself. He rose toward the basket and banked in a contested put-back.

Come to think of it, sophomore Jon Hood looked like his buddy Josh Harrellson on the play.

Hearing that, Hood turned to Harrellson in the next cubicle of the Kentucky locker room and said, "I jumped a lot higher than Josh ever jumped in his life."

Vertical leaping hasn't been the issue with Hood. If anything, the UK coaches wanted the sophomore guard from Madisonville to play more horizontally. Diving more on the floor for loose balls. Crouching low in a defensive stance. Bloodying his nose.

"I was happy for him today," said Assistant Coach John Robic, who substituted for Coach John Calipari in the post-game news conference. "Because he played aggressively. He went for the ball instead of shying away. I think that is a big thing with him.

"The biggest thing about his confidence is him grabbing that offensive rebound and sticking it back in."

Hood acknowledged the confidence that such a sequence can instill.

"That's a basic fundamental effort play," he said. "If you get the effort plays down first, then you're able to elaborate on your game from there."

Such a play can make irrelevant Hood's 1-for-6 shooting. Alas, it can also obscure career highs of three assists and 20 minutes, the latter double his previous best.

"You know what, he had fun out there," Robic said, "... and I think that is important for him. It was nice to see him get extended minutes."

On Thursday, Calipari said that Hood has had "buzzard luck" so far this season. When asked his reaction, Hood looked puzzled. "I don't know," he said. "I never heard that term."

When told it meant he'd had bad luck, Hood nodded and noted how Louisiana State freshman Matt Derenbecker hit a shot over him.

"It seemed like a circus shot," he said.

'Quiet leader'

Robic saluted the defensive work of DeAndre Liggins, who spearheaded the effort that limited LSU's Andre Stringer to 3-for-16 shooting and six points, the latter equalling a season low for the freshman.

"I think we feed off him defensively," Robic said. "I think he is that emotional, quiet leader that we need."

Liggins smiled when told of Robic's words.

" 'Robes' always gets on me at the beginning of the game," he said. "He just says, 'You have to set the tone defensively, and the rest of my teammates will follow.' That's what I'm trying to do every game."

On the down side, Liggins missed a wide-open driving dunk.

"I think I was shocked I was wide open," Liggins said. "I guess I didn't get high enough."

Harrellson's statement

Harrellson equalled a career high with 14 rebounds. He grabbed only seven rebounds against Southeastern Conference teams all of last season.

"It's just mind-boggling just to imagine what I've been doing," he said of his transformation from seldom-used reserve to productive starter.

Harrellson went into the LSU game with a personal objective. After Harrellson grabbed only four rebounds against Auburn on Tuesday, Calipari suggested he had "reverted" to his careless play of earlier seasons.

"He was worried about me reverting," Harrellson said. "I guess I made a statement. I'm not going anywhere, Coach. One bad game. I put that behind me."

As he has in the past, Harrellson credited the hard work he put in early this season for his improved production. That work began when Calipari punished him with extra conditioning for an ill-advised tweet critical of the UK coach.

"A lot of people were there to push me through," he said. "My girlfriend. My family."


"She was always telling me to continue to do (the extra conditioning)," Harrellson said. "Don't give up. Don't quit. ... She said, 'Get through it. It'll make you better.' "

No-show Cal

During his pre-game radio interview, Calipari said he might not appear at his customary post-game news conference. Calipari said he planned to leave after the game to watch UK-bound recruit Anthony Davis play in the Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday night.


UK improved to 27-0 at home with Calipari as coach. ... LSU made 26.2 percent of its shots. That's a season-low for a UK opponent. "Regardless of what John (Calipari) says, he's got the team right," LSU Coach Trent Johnson said. "They're a handful."

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