Gameday: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt

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UK Opens SEC Play at Home Against Vanderbilt

Note: At halftime, football Head Coach Rich Brooks will formally accept the Liberty Bowl trophy.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The season within the season begins today.

Starting this afternoon at 2 p.m., the Kentucky Wildcats (11-4) will begin their 16-game long journey through the Southeastern Conference. First up for UK is the Vanderbilt Commodores (11-3) in what could be a season-changing game. There's several reasons why:

UK enters this afternoon's game coming off the heartbreaking 74-71 loss to in-state rival Louisville on Sunday at Freedom Hall. Besides a mess of turnovers, the Wildcats played arguably one of their better games of the year, getting a game-high 28 points from junior Jodie Meeks and another double-double (22 points, 15 rebounds) from sophomore Patrick Patterson. The Wildcats have had nearly a week to recover, so it'll be extremely important to see if they can put the loss behind them today.

This is also UK's first opportunity to play Vanderbilt since a crushing 93-52 loss last season in Nashville, Tenn. In the grand scheme of things, the loss last season has no bearing on where the Wildcats are headed this season, but you can surely bet the players are more than eager to erase last season's loss with a victory today.

"I think that it can motivate us more than anything," junior Michael Porter said. "We did beat them earlier in the season last year so we knew that could beat them. Now, it motivates us to come out and play harder, and we want to get that loss last year back. We want to win, not just because of the loss last year, but because we want to win every game we play."

The key to the game could be Vanderbilt center A.J. Ogilvy, who leads the Commodores in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.2 rebounds per game). In last season's 93-52 Vanderbilt win, the freshman went off for 19 points and 12 rebounds, including putting Patterson in foul trouble for most of the day. When UK defeated No. 13 Vanderbilt in last year's first matchup, the Wildcats rattled Ogilvy early and often. He ended up with 16 points, but it came too little and too late.

"He's a great basketball player," Patterson said. "He's very physical, real tough down low. He's a huge body and he's just going to keep banging and banging with you down low."

But Ogilvy could be a bit hindered by a foot injury that forced him to miss Vandy's game with St. Francis on Dec. 31. The sophomore has been dealing with a bone bruise in his foot, but played last game at Massachusetts.

If Ogilvy is healthy and ready to go, he'll likely match up with Patterson in the paint. If Patterson can keep Ogilvy at bay and record another double-double - he leads the SEC with nine - the Wildcats should be in prime position for a win.

Keep an eye out for how Vanderbilt tries to defend one of the nation's best duos in Patterson and Meeks. Patterson leads the nation in field goal percentage (71.3) and Meeks leads the SEC in scoring (24.4), but Vanderbilt boasts the SEC's top defense. Through 11 games, the Commodores are holding their opponents to 58.4 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the field.

That's all for now, but we'll have more just as soon as we get underway. Check out the live game blog on Gametracker throughout the game for updates and analysis.

Cat Scratches

  • Kentucky is in its 106th season of basketball.
  • Kentucky is the all-time NCAA leader in wins with 1,977.
  • The Wildcats are 130-42 all-time against Vanderbilt, including a 72-14 record in Lexington.
  • Jodie Meeks leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks fourth nationally in scoring (24.4 ppg).
  • Patrick Patterson leads the nation in FG percentage (71.3) and ranks 21st nationally in rebounding (9.8).
  • Patterson is the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in scoring (5th - 19.5) and rebounding.
  • UK ranks third in the country in blocked shots per game (7.5) while ranking fourth nationally in field goal percentage (51.0), sixth in free throw percentage (78.4) and ninth in assists/game (18.3).
  • Patrick Patterson has recorded nine double-doubles this season and 15 in his career, tying him for 22nd on UK's all-time double-doubles list.
  • Kentucky is 58-17 in SEC openers and has won 19 of its last 21.
  • UK has posted a remarkable 238-34 (.875) record in regular season SEC games played in Rupp. The Wildcats were 8-0 at home in league play last year.

Head Coach Billy Gillispie Quotes

On starting conference play...
"I don't think many things change from a practice standpoint. At this point inthe season we should be executing much better and we should have a better awarenessand understanding on how our opponents play. The pre-conference games are supposedto help us to get ready for this part of the season. We should be better nowafter playing 15 games. We have to prepare for the fact that we will not be gettinga lot of the things we have been getting on the court because of the familiarityof the teams and players. Conference games are usually tougher and tend to bevery close games, but they are the most fun on my part."

On how Kentucky is playing...
"We are playing better, but in our last outing we turned the ball over 21 times.That is not going to be good enough in conference play; we have to cut down ourturnover numbers."

On Vanderbilt...
"I think that Vanderbilt has changed quite a bit from year to year. I wasn'tin the league a couple of years ago and I think they were running a Princetontype offense back then. They have not done that in the two years that I havebeen here. They do a lot of the same things they did last year, but they aremore athletic this year and taller. The only thing that they lack from last year'steam is experience. When you start one of the best big men in the country, andyou start one of the most efficient point guards in the country, who has reallyimproved his game by not hesitating and becoming a better shooter, then you addthe athletic pieces that they have, then you see why Vanderbilt has a reallynice team."

On A.J. Ogilvy...
"He is a really good player. There were two guys who were picked as unanimousas all-conference players and that was him and PatrickPatterson. That tells you how good everyone thinks that he is. He reallyslows the game down and knows where guys are going to be. He uses his body, hehas great footwork and great hands and he has great ability to score with theball. He puts himself in great position to score before he catches the ball.It takes a great deal of understanding the game and they do a good job of allowinghim to get great angles that lead to easy baskets."

On Michael Porter...
"He has improved a lot but I think our entire team has improved a lot. I keep saying it is not that Michael (Porter) or DeAndre (Liggins) are getting fewer turnovers. It may be their statistic, but it may have not been their fault. You have to have five people functioning as a team to not turn the ball over. The point guard is usually the person who starts the offense and they are usually the first person who has to do something with the ball. It doesn't mean it is always their fault if there is a high turnover number."

On Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks...
"I know it will be difficult (for them). When teams come to play us, we knowthey are going to really focus on Patrick (Patterson) and Jodie (Meeks) and wehave to prepare for that. We have to get other players to step up and start makingplays. I assume it is going to be this way in all of our conference games."

On a third scorer...
"We need all of our players to score. I'm not big on just having a third scorer.We had three scorers last year and that is not good enough. I want several scorers.I would rather have five or six guys average about eight points a game much morethan having three guys consistently have double-digit points, not to take anythingaway from Meeks or Patterson. When you have several guys scoring then that iswhen you have a really special team. It is more balanced. I want all five guyson our court to have to be guarded. When they are guarded then it will give Meeksand Patterson a much better chance for them to continue to do what they havebeen doing."

Kentucky Player Quotes

#13 Michael Porter, Jr.

On how much he remembers the loss to Vanderbilt last year in Nashville ...
"You have to think about it a little bit, losing by that much is never prettybut we aren't going to think about it when we come out to play tomorrow. We wantto get them back for the loss last year, but we would want to win if we lostby two last year as well. It does hurt a little bit. Last year, they really justtook it to us. We couldn't do anything offensively, and we have to execute betteroffensively this year."

On if the loss can be used for motivation ...
"I think that it can motivate us more than anything. We did beat them earlierin the season last year so we knew that we could beat them. Now, it motivatesus to come out and play harder and we want to get that loss last year back. Wewant to win, not just because of the loss last year, but because we want to winevery game we play."

On if coach talked about the loss to Vanderbilt last year during practice this week ...
"No, he really hasn't at all. He has been doing the same things that he has doneall year. He hasn't changed his approach to this game. I know that he wants towin it bad. First of all because it is our first conference game and you can'twin all the conference games if you don't win the first one. I know that thisgame is kind of like a start to a new year in starting conference play. Thatis why this game is so big."

On if he thinks league play can turn their season around this year like it did last year ...
"As far as record goes we are a little better than where we were last year atthis point, but we still want to improve a lot like we did last year in conferenceplay. We are looking to get better and improve because we know that we can improvea lot from where we are now."

#23 Jodie Meeks, Jr.

On the mindset entering conference play...
"We look at it as a new season. We still know we have a lot of work to do sotomorrow is the first step."

On the Vanderbilt games last season...
"I thought the first game we came in with a real good mindset. It got us offto good start. We started 1-0 (in the conference) and I think they were rankedin the country at that time so it gave us a lot of confidence. The second gamewas one to forget about because it was kind of ugly from the very beginning.We just have to come in and concentrate on playing hard."

On trying to get revenge for last season's 41-point loss to Vanderbilt...
"We try not to get into that. Our main focus is to get better every game. We'vebeen getting every day in practice and we're just looking forward to every gamewe play."

On the improved play of Michael Porter...
"At the beginning of the year he kind of struggled with turnovers, but same withme. I think he has a lot more confidence. He had some pretty good games in themonth of December and this year. With him playing well, it just makes our teambetter."

#54 Patrick Patterson, So.

On his matchup with A.J. Ogilvy...
"He's a great basketball player. He's very physical, real tough down low. He'sa huge body and he's just going to keep banging and banging with you down low.I saw that he's worked on his jump shot a lot so he's been shooting threes andjust like last year he's still driving from the high post and the top of thekey. He's improved a lot from what I've seen from last year and I expect a greatmatchup."

On the focus he and Jodie Meeks will face in conference play...
"I expect a lot more. We've been all talking about that a lot in practice. Teamsthat we're going to face in the SEC are going to try to take me and Jodie awayfrom the offense and maybe do a triangle and two or a box and one on Jodie. Ramon(Harris), Perry (Stevenson), Darius (Miller) and DeAndre (Liggins), it's theirtime to step up, their time to shine."

On encouraging his teammates to shoot when they're open...
"I think it's getting through a lot. These past couple of practices, DeAndrehas been taking a lot of jump shots, same with Darius and even Perry is takingthrees. I'm going to tell all my teammates, no matter where you're at (shootit if you're open). Josh, usually when he's been at the 3-point line he's beena little bit hesitant. I say if you're open shoot the shot. If you're open, nomatter if I got a man in the post behind my back and there's no man in betweenme and you, take the jump shot."

On the 41-point to loss to Vanderbilt last year...
"We've been talking about since the beginning of practice the past couple ofdays. We watched a lot of tape from the game last year - here and a lot fromthe game where we played them at their place. We were seeing what went wrong,how Ogilvy got me in foul trouble and just all the things they did to us."

On how Ogilvy got him in foul trouble last year...
"I wasn't moving my feet. He was able to establish deep post position. They weresetting a lot of screens. He just took me out of my game on the offensive end.When he got the ball in the post, he did about a two dribbles and (shot) it overhis left shoulder."