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UK Basketball, Scotty Hopson, and the Hilltoppers


DeAndre Liggins certainly knows how to redeem himself.  After Liggins' now infamous Friday night "no mas" to coach Gillispie, I thought Saturday night he played his best basketball in the second half of the West Virginia game.  His game stats aren't awe-inspiring -- Four points, three assists, two rebounds and four turnovers -- but the team operated as smoothly as they have all season.  Part of the credit goes to Patrick Patterson who seemed to be a bit more authoritative in gaining offensive position; he's beginning to present himself to the passer as he did last year.  But the bulk of the accolades should go to Liggins, in my eyes. 

As far as Liggins' 'failure to launch' Friday night versus Kansas State; I'll leave that one to Gillispie.  He has handled what few disciplinary issues he's had with aplomb, and I trust his judgment in the handling of Liggins.  But I have to say, I was shocked when I first heard that Liggins refused to enter the game.  In my mind there isn't too much worse that a teammate can do. 

I think that with his play Saturday, though, he demonstrated that he wants to be apart of this team, and his teammates demonstrated that they want him to be apart of the team.  If that's true, that's all that really matters.

I love Josh Harrellson's game.  He may not be as quick as every opponent he plays, but I'll bet Tru's pink slip that he has a higher basketball IQ than most of his opponents. 

He reminds me of a quicker, more offensively polished Jared Prickett, with a cupful of Erik Daniels thrown in for good measure.  He is blessed with having a nose for the ball; some call it 'court savvy,' whatever it's name, he has it in spades. 

Harrellson is also very fundamentally sound, especially when it comes to rebounding.  He knows how to seal his man off by putting his behind in the guys midsection.  He also rebounds with two hands, and unlike some others, he immediately looks up the floor.  He also leads the 'Cats in the most rebounds per minute played category (he averages 4.7 boards in 14.2 minutes played).

Saturday against West Virginia, Harrellson's line was very impressive: 4-6 field goals, 4-5 free throws, 12 points, and 10 rebounds (he led the team with four offensive boards).

I expect Mr. Harrellson will be seeing a lot of playing time this year.  Now we know why Western Illinois hesitated to release him from his scholarship.

On the year, UK is shooting 50.3%, while holding their opponents to only 37.3%.  UK is also outrebounding their opponents by 8.8 rebounds per game.  Kentucky also holds a big edge in the assist department -- 93-56.  On the negative side, UK has committed 138 turnovers to their opponents 99, and UK's opponents have 12 more offensive rebounds than do the 'Cats.  That's 51 more possessions UK's opponents have had, in only six games. 

Jodie Meeks is shooting 44.2% on 104 shots taken.  Patrick Patterson is shooting 70.9% on 55 shots taken.  Although Jodie is making 37.8% of his three-point shots, I would still like to see, in any given game, Patterson get at least as many shots as Meeks.

UK's three primary ball-handlers, Meeks, Liggins, and Michael Porter have combined to turn the ball over 70 times, while dishing out only 44 assists.  Not a winning combination.  This team isn't good enough to overcome an avalanche of turnovers, and we really haven't seen any improvement (23 versus WVU) ... that worries me. 

UK has blocked 41 shots to their opponents 13 blocks.  Harrellson and Perry Stevenson, along with Patrick Patterson, lead UK with seven, 14, and 12 blocks respectively.  Harrellson blocked his shots while averaging only 14.2 minutes per game, while Stevenson averages 26.2 minutes per game.

UK held West Virginia to only 26.3% field goal shooting in the second half, while UK shot an even 50.0%.  UK also out-rebounded WVU by 10 boards.  Fresher legs?

After watching Tennessee's Scotty Hopson play Sunday against Gonzaga, I almost wish Billy Gillispie would have went after Hopson a bit more passionately.  The kid can play, and he most certainly can shoot the ball (although his shot makes Richard Madison's look flat).  On the year he's averaging 9.8 points per game (in only 20.5 minutes per game), while making 50.0% of his three-point attempts.

He had a stellar line against Gonzaga: 6-12 field goals, 3-6 three-point tries, 16 points, 3 assists and only one turnover.  Too bad the Vols couldn't weather the 'Zags ... well, not really.  Tennessee did crush Gonzaga on the boards with a +23 (they had 19 more offensive rebounds than  the 'Zags), but UT couldn't defend (what's new?), and Gonzaga torched 'em from all over the floor, shooting 51.9%overall, while making 55% (11-20) of their three-pointers.

Finally, a BIG TIME congratulations to Ken McDonald and his Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for disposing of the Louisville Cardinals in a most clear and decisive manner.  Hilltopper guard A.J. Slaughter and Steffphon Pettigrew did the Commonwealth proud -- Slaughter had 25 points, while Pettigrew posted 17 points and 12 rebounds, and he helped shut down UofL's McDonald's All-America c/f Samardo Samuels (Samuels has at least 4-5 inches on Pettigrew).

Slaughter also had a little 'Ramel Bradley moment:'  After the game, Slaughter mentioned that he thought some of the UofL players were disrespecting the Toppers by being lackadaisical in warm-ups.  He said he also noted several 'we're better than you' smirks (that was his interpretation, anyway).

It reminded me of last year: UK versus UT in Rupp.  Bradley was not happy with some of the Vols wearing their earrings during warm-ups.  He took that as a sign of disrespect ... and proceeded to lead UK to a huge upset of the Vols, 72-66. 

I guess It doesn't matter whether you're from Brooklyn (Bradley), or Shelbyville (Slaughter) ... don't disrespect the underdog. 

Congrats Tops!!

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!