Gameday: Kentucky vs. Florida

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Wildcats Look to Stop Three-Game Skid

The Wildcats look to put an end to their current three-game losing streak, the longest of the season, when they host Florida in a nationally-televised game on ESPN Super Tuesday.

Coverage

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ESPN - Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes, Jeannine Edwards

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Big Blue Sports Network - Tom Leach and Mike Pratt

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After having their 12-game SEC home winning streak snapped by South Carolina, Mississippi State entered Rupp Arena and dealt the Cats their second straight loss at home, 66-57.

The Bulldogs placed four players in double-figures while Kentucky's Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson paced the Wildcats with 15 points each. Patterson pulled down a team-high nine rebounds while Darius Miller dished out a game-high five assists.

Kentucky shot a season low 35.6 percent from the field, including just 28.6 percent (4-for-14) from behind the three-point arc.

Quick Notes

  • Kentucky is in its 106th season of basketball.
  • Kentucky is the all-time NCAA leader in wins with 1,982.
  • The Wildcats are 85-31 all-time against Florida State, including a 43-8 mark in Lexington.
  • Jodie Meeks leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks fourth nationally in scoring (25.1 ppg).
  • Meeks is averaging 26.4 ppg in SEC games.
  • Patrick Patterson ranks third in the nation in FG percentage (65.4) and 32nd in rebounding (9.2).
  • Patterson is the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in scoring (5th - 18.3) and rebounding (3rd - 9.2).
  • UK ranks third in the country in blocked shots per game (7.2) and free throw percentage (79.2), eighth field goal percentage (49.0) and 15th in assists/game (16.6).
  • Perry Stevenson ranks 10th on UK's all-time blocked shots list (122).
  • Jodie Meeks (954) and Patrick Patterson (817) are quickly approaching the 1,000-point mark which would make them the 56th and 57th members of the prestigious club at UK.

Head Coach Billy Gillispie

On his overall impressions of Florida ...
"They are a really good team and it is hard to imagine, but in my opinion they have been underappreciated nationally. They haven't lost too many times and they have some really great players. I think they have one of the best point guards in the country by far. It is amazing to me that a team that just came off of back-to-back national championships with a coach that is destined for the hall of fame to be totally underappreciated in my opinion. They are a very good team and play good defense. They don't give up a whole lot of points in conference. They are really great in transition and then you have to guard all five spots on the floor which we will have a hard time doing because they shoot the ball so well. They also have great ability to beat you on the dribble as well. They are a very difficult match-up for anyone. I think that it would be foolish to think that they are not a well balanced team. They look differently defensively, but what they do is very effective. You don't win back-to-back national championships, which is something that (rarely) happens, without having a great plan in every aspect of the game. They have really good players, and a great coach and a really good plan. They do a great job of taking away what you want to try to do. I don't think that any team could win as many games and lose as few games as they have without being a good defensive team. "

On Nick Calathes ...
"He has great size, athletic ability and great vision. He has an unbelievable skill to be able to deliver passes on time and on target and that is not easily done. There are very few players that can do that. He can shoot it well and probably changes pace better than anyone I have seen in a long time. He really understands how to go fast and then slow and get you again. He is really a smart player and when it all comes down to it, I would think that even though he has a ton of great attributes that is probably his greatest, his ability to understand how to play the game."

On what they have been working on in practice ...
"We have worked on everything just like we would no matter if we had won all of our games. I have been saying that all year long, even when we were 5-0 in the SEC, I said that we had a lot of things to work on and I really meant it. We have to get better offensively, defensively, transition wise and rebounding the ball as well. Hopefully we have done those things and we will see when we play again. Practice has been good and this team has practiced well all year long. We haven't always played nearly as well as we have practiced sometimes. The opponent has a lot to do with that too. This has been a good practicing team and their attitudes have been great the entire year. I don't have anything to complain about in that respect."

On the player's meeting after the Mississippi State game and if the players spoke candidly with each other in the meeting ...
"Someone asked me about that and asked if it was a very vocal locker room. I have been in vocal locker rooms before and that wasn't the case in my opinion. I don't know where that came from. Maybe that happened at a different time after I left the locker room, I don't really know."

On if this team cares and if they need to play with more heart ...
"You would have to talk to them about that, but I don't think that if you lose you didn't care. I think that what we should do is give our opponents more credit than we do, not as players, but outside the player and coaching ranks. Our opponents have played very well and we haven't played nearly as well as we need too to win. I think that you have to give our opponents some credit sometime too."

On the opponents shooting the ball very well in Kentucky's last three games ...
"I think that those teams have done an excellent job of making shots and executing the offense and making guarded shots that we didn't defend nearly as well as we needed to. We are giving up 37.5 percent which tops the SEC but we have to do a lot better defending the 3-point line. We probably have to contest a little harder, but I think that we are in good position on most of them, not all of them, but most. I think that we have to compete harder when it comes to contesting shots and those sorts of things. You are talking about just a minor adjustment, not major. We have been in the right position just not competing as hard in those positions. That is usually a difference between any team winning and losing is when it gets to the point to where you have to make the play, you have to make it."

On how Patrick's finger is doing ...
"He has practiced when we practiced and they said that it is getting better. It will probably be a lingering problem for him."

On if he treated this week off differently than a normal week ...
"We practiced about the same as we always do. This year we have had more weeks off probably than any other year that I have been associated with. We did the same things as far as days and amount of practice time."

On Ramon Harris ...
"I think that he is back to 100 percent, but it seems that he has had some tough luck. He has been hurt five or six times but that doesn't happen unless you are playing hard. I think that he is back to 100 percent and it looks like that on the court."

On if the Florida game is a must win game ...
"Every game is important. The first game in conference was important and the last game will be very important as well. We want to try to win them all and I have never said that there is a must win game. Must win games are only in tournament play, when if you don't win you go home, those are must win. Every game is a must-play-well game and we must play better than we have been playing; we have to make our opponent not play as well as they have been playing against us. It is a 16-game schedule just like it was, is and it will be and that is what you will always hear me say. We will add them up at the end and see where we are. A lot of things can happen in the next few weeks."

On what he can do to get Jodie going again ...
"We have to do a better job of getting the ball inside and some other guys have to make some shots and some plays. We have to do a better job of helping him because his numbers might not look as good as they did previously, but he has played very well and very hard. He has tried to shoulder the load too much for us and we have to help him much more than we have been. The thing about it is that you have to understand how to play with a guy that is getting that much attention. They are not going to come off Jodie; they are going to him straight in transition, which is smart. We have to play off of that. On penetration if they are not going to help from Jodie's side than we should penetrate to that side and try to get it to the basket because they don't have a help defender. Then you get a chance to play four-on-four instead of five-on-five and you have to learn how to do those kinds of things and we are in the midst of doing that and hopefully we will get better."

On if Jodie needs to start thinking more selfishly ...
"No, Jodie is doing fine. I don't think that anyone ever prospers when you start to think selfish thoughts, whether it is a sportswriter, basketball player or coach. I don't think that is the way you are supposed to be thinking and he definitely doesn't, hasn't and I don't think that he will."

On if he needs to set up more screens for Jodie ...
"We haven't screened as well as we needed to. That is one of the things that we have been working on is how to accept screens. Jodie gets a little anxious sometimes, so we don't have the proper angle to screen to give us the best chance to get great results. We have to screen better and he has to accept screens better."

On if home court advantage is overrated ...
"When we play well we have the best home court advantage in the world, there is no question about that, but we have to give them a reason to help us. We haven't done that nearly enough and the time that they get the most excited is when you are making plays in transition and making threes and getting dunks. Those are usually out of hustle plays and getting defensive stops. We haven't done that nearly enough here lately." 

Player Quotes

#1 Darius Miller, Fr.

On if the heart-to-heart in the locker room after Mississippi State has changed things in practice ...
"Practices haven't really been much different; they are still as intense as they were. It's like I have been saying from the beginning Coach Gillispie wants to win every game. He has been disappointed after every loss that we have had and we have had practices the same every single time. There hasn't been a difference. We might have a little more of a edge with us now that we have lost three in a row, people are mad about that. Hopefully we will come out and show that on the court tomorrow."

On if Rupp Arena is a home court advantage ...
"We have to come out and play with a lot of energy and play tough. We know that we have to give 110 percent and we have to do all we can to win. That is all we can do is to play as hard as we can and the best that we can. We definitely have to come out and play with pride. People aren't supposed to come to Rupp and win and they should be scared to come into Rupp. There is definitely a pride factor in that."

On if he believes in must win games and if Florida is a must win game ...
"I do believe in must win games, but I think that every game in conference is a must win game. Conference games are very important, especially now we have to win every game in my opinion."

On practice this week and what he liked about it ...
"We have done a lot of preparation on Florida and trying to get everything straightened out. I think that the team has worked really hard this week and I think that we have had really good practices. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow."

#23 Jodie Meeks, Jr.

On if they are feeling pressure with the three-game losing streak ...
"I don't think that we are feeling any pressure right now. Our main focus is to try to get a win anyway possible. Any kind of win would be good for us. We want to get back on a roll like we were at the beginning of conference season."

On what practices have been like since losing to Mississippi State ...
"Practices have been very intense and very vocal. Coach Gillispie has stressed talking on defense and offense and executing what he wants us to do."

On if a sense of urgency to win around the program has heightened since the three-game losing streak ...
"I don't think that it is at a different level. I think that it has maintained its normal intensity all year long. Our main thing is to get a win any way, shape or form possible. We are focusing on that right now."

On defenses keying on him ...
"I think the past three games I have been impatient during games because I have never been denied the ball this much in my life. I have to do a better job of being patient and picking my spots to where I want to go. I need to set people up with my cuts better and improve all aspects of my game."

#54 Patrick Patterson, So.

On practice the last few days ...
"They have been good; we have had some pretty intense, much needed, practices. Overall, the intensity and attitude have been much better on the team. The practices have been physical and long just like they have needed to be. I think we will be well prepared for the game."

On preparing for Florida ...
"We focus on different things for every game that we play. It is never the same thing from team to team, but it is sort of the same types of things that we prepared for when we played for them last year. We want to take away Nick Calathes because he is a tremendous point guard and shooter. Their whole team is full of great shooters and they have very well in transition as well as rebounding. A few key things we have been preparing for are taking away Calathes, offensive and defensive rebounding and getting back into our transition defense."

On how to handle Nick Calathes ...
"We have to take his eyes away. Tennessee did a great job of taking his eyes away. We have been watching a lot of tape and learning how to handle him. We have to get in his head and mess up his game. We will need to play great defense on him and pressure him by contesting his jump shots and not letting him drive to the basket."

On knowing the scouting report ...
"We had a problem last game of not being in the right position and knowing your man. We were doing a poor job of contesting jump shots. We didn't do a good job of stopping the dribble drive penetration to the basket and they played us much tougher on defense that we had anticipated. (Jarvis) Varnado did a great job blocking shots in the paint and being a defensive presence. We need to be better prepared both mentally and physically and be ready for our opponent."

On protecting the home court ...
"It is always an advantage playing at home. We have the fans and we are more comfortable playing here. Last year we didn't have a loss at home and this year we already have two home losses in the conference. We can't lose any more games at home."