Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

Miller, Teague lead Kentucky back to the Sweet 16

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Darius Miller scored 19 points to help UK advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Darius Miller scored 19 points to help UK advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.

LOUISVILLE - Seconds after pinning Anthony Booker's shot on the glass and getting fouled midway through the first half, Darius Miller laid on his back in front of the Kentucky bench clapping his hands emphatically, almost violently.

He wanted this one - and he wanted it badly.

Mr. Big Shot - who would have thought anyone would say that a year ago? - once again came up with the crucial shots when Kentucky needed them the most Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Hitting clutch jumpers in pivotal, momentum-changing situations, Miller scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead top overall seed Kentucky to an 87-71 victory over Iowa State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Looking like a player that didn't want to take off his Kentucky jersey for a final time, Miller led the Cats back to the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row under John Calipari. Marquis Teague was just as big, scoring a career-high 24 points to go along with seven assists, four rebounds and just two turnovers.

"All of us know when this is over we're done together," Miller said. "We were trying to play extremely hard, especially myself with this being my senior year. We're just not ready for it to end yet."

Miller was in it from the start, playing perhaps the most emotional game of his career. He hit 7-of-11 shots, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

It seemed like all of them came in key situations, but for Miller, a senior who has struggled with slow starts, the first make was the most important. After he hit his first trey seven minutes into the game, he followed with the big block on the other end and then another long 2.

"I think that's very important for a lot of people on our team, to get going early, to kind of establish ourselves early," Miller said. "I feel like when we do that, especially when a lot of people do that, knock down shots early, that really gets us going, especially on the defensive end."

The senior from Maysville, Ky., wouldn't let up the rest of the night, and his teammates said they fed off his energy.

"Making big shots, celebrating, telling us what to do, being a leader on the team, basically acting like the senior on the team - that's his job and that's what he was doing," said Anthony Davis, who posted his 18th double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds. "That really helps us when he's making plays and making shots."

Miller, in veteran form, gave all the credit to Teague, and rightfully so. The player who many have tabbed as UK's potential weakness played the best game of his career, killing the Cyclones with a midrange jumper and speedy transition game.

"He was the main part of us winning," Miller said. "Not only did he score a lot, he had a really good floor game. He got the other guys involved, myself included. Most of my shots that I had came from him. He hit us all in the right spots."

Almost daring Teague to shoot the ball, the Cyclones backed off Teague and allowed him to take the midrange jumper. He happily accepted the challenge and drained 10 of his 14 shots.

"Today they really left him," Coach Cal said. "They left him on the perimeter, and I told him, 'Look, you've got to keep people honest. Score the ball. I know you can score.' "

And score the freshman did.

After Iowa State erased an 11-point halftime deficit and tied it at 42-42, Teague and Miller combined for 22 points during a devastating 34-10 run.

"I'm just running the team a lot better," Teague said. "(I am) more comfortable out there. I know what Coach wants me to do. I don't really have to look to the sideline as much. ... (Earlier this season) I just was thinking too much, trying to force shots up sometimes instead of making the easy play because coming out of high school I scored a lot of points and that's what I was used to doing. But playing with guys like I'm playing with, I don't need to do that."


The 34-10 run put the game out of reach for Royce White, who, despite a Herculean effort, couldn't take down the team he nearly transferred to two seasons ago.

"I think we did a great job of playing defense throughout that time," Miller said. "We did a great job of knocking down shots. Marquis did a great job of attacking the rim, getting everybody looks or getting his own self shots. He did a great job of running the team throughout that time. Terrence (Jones) did a really good job and so did (Anthony Davis). We had a lot of people playing on high cylinders tonight."

Knowing full well they couldn't shut down White, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound point forward, Coach Cal decided to take the rest of Iowa State's team out of the game and make who he called the second coming of Charles Barkley beat them one on five.

"Coach kind of made an example of last year when we played Ohio State, when we played (Jared) Sullinger," Miller said. "We did kind of a similar thing. He was saying we were just going to make him have to beat us. We were going to try to take everybody else out of it."

The strategy worked as UK limited one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country to 3 for 22 from 3-point land.

Meanwhile, Kentucky showed once again that it can hit 3-pointers when given the opportunity. Iowa State appeared to back off the Cats around the perimeter, almost daring them to shoot it. Coach Cal said it was more a matter of the Cyclones collapsing, but either way, UK capitalized, hitting 10 for 20 from behind the arc, including a season high five 3-pointers from Doron Lamb.

"That's what Vandy did," Jones said. "I'm assuming a lot of teams are going to try to go at that, but we have a lot of great shooters on our team that we believe in. We're OK with them playing like that because we think they're going to go in."

Said Coach Cal: "They want to talk about our 3-point shooting - we're one of the best in the country. We just don't shoot a lot."

The Cats also won the battle of the boards 40-31.

"When we got guys to get tough rebounds, that's what gives you possessions to win the games," said Jones, who put in a yeoman's effort with eight points and 11 rebounds while guarding White for most of the night."Rebounds (are) physical play to me, gaining possessions, and I think we do a lot of that."

The victory set up a highly anticipated rematch with Indiana next week in Atlanta. The Hoosiers delivered Kentucky its only regular-season loss of the year in December on a Christian Watford buzzer beater in Bloomington, Ind.

Now, Kentucky will have its chance at redemption with much bigger stakes at hand.

"We've got to come out ready to go with high intensity," Miller said. "I know we're a different team and so are they. We'll see who the better team is."

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://cstv.collegesports.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/32930

Leave a comment




Recent Comments

Rotating image