Kentucky Thumps Tennessee at Home
Feb. 21, 2009
By Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky didn't need Jodie Meeks to score a school-record 54 points. With Patrick Patterson back in the lineup and Darius Miller having a career afternoon, 14 points from Meeks was all the Kentucky Wildcats needed.
In one of the more balanced scoring efforts of the season - eight different Wildcats scored - the UK men's basketball team (19-8, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) thumped the Tennessee Volunteers 77-58 on Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high crowd of 24,394 fans.
Returning from a right ankle injury that he sprained during the Florida game, Patterson scored a game-high 19 points and added five rebounds. Suffice to say, it appears Patterson is healthy again.
"Patrick is healthy and he played like it," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. "He definitely made a big difference in the game."
But maybe not the biggest. With Tennessee's Josh Tabb's stuck to Meeks like glue nearly all afternoon, the Wildcats needed production outside the primary options of Patterson and Meeks.
They got it from a host of Wildcats, inluding Michael Porter (nine points on three 3-pointers) and Perry Stevenson (six points and five rebounds), but in Gillispie's eyes, Miller was the player of the game.
"I thought on Tuesday night that he would be the player of the game," Gillispie said. "I really believe that Darius is a very good offensive player. ... I've seen this happen before. We've played 26, 27 games now, and it's time for Darius to do that."
Even if it was maybe a game late for Gillispie's prediction, it couldn't have come at a better time. Deadlocked in a four-way tie atop the SEC East coming into Saturday's action, Miller, a freshman, poured in a career-high 17 points to go along with a career-high six assists.
"That's the Darius Miller that we recruited," Gillispie said. "He's been making strides. It's great for a guy like him to have a bust out game like that for what he can do for the remainder of the season."
Miller never missed from the floor. He was a perfrect 6-of-6 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Miller said they knew Tennessee would try to shut down Meeks after he went for a school record last time against the Vols, so it was up to UK's supporting cast to pick up the slack. The guard from Maysville, Ky., gave credit to Patterson's presence on the floor, but Miller appeared to be a more confident player than he had been earlier in the season.
"I think I'm playing with a lot more confidence than I was at the beginning (of the season)" Miller said. "My coaches and my teammates have really helped me out a lot with that, telling me what to do and just being there the whole season."
UK left little in doubt from the opening tip. In holding the Vols to eight-plus minutes without a single point, the Wildcats streaked to a 13-0 start to begin the game.
Patterson got UK's first touch of the game and converted on a turnaround layup, but UK's romp started - and rarely ended - with defense. The Wildcats limited Tennessee to just 31.7 percent shooting, including 4-of-24 from behind the 3-point line, and forced 13 turnovers.
Patterson called it the best defensive effort of the season.
"Everyone was pitching in," Patterson said. "Everyone was doing their part on defense. We had a great defensive night. We helped each other a lot. We didn't do it so much rebounding on the defensive end - they got too many offensive rebounds - but it was just a great team effort out there tonight."
Tennessee made its run late in the second half, capitalizing on UK turnovers. After dishing out 10 assists to just one turnover, UK turned it over eight straight times before recording an assist. That and rebounding problems - UK allowed eight first-half offensive boards that led to 18 second-chance points - helped Tennessee cut it to four just before halftime.
But once Tennessee cut it to 31-27 early in the second half, the Wildcats buried the Vols for good with a 17-4 run. Porter capped the run with a 3-point bomb, forcing Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl - who called the game "embarrassing" and apologized to Tennessee fans - to call a timeout.
The win bumped Tennessee from atop the SEC East, but with four games to go, the race has been far from decided.
"Hopefully (we go) 4-0," Patterson said. "Just depending on how we practice, depending on the intensity that we have and the demeanor that we have, hopefully we can go 4-0."