Column: Win shows there’s no need to worry about the Cats


in the first half of UK’s win over Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

ATHENS, Ga. — All the talk since Saturday’s loss has been that, well, UK’s all talk.

From the perimeter, it can’t hit shots even though UK head coach John Calipari has insisted that this is not a poor shooting team.

The talk was also that UK can’t rely on its shooters if DeMarcus Cousins isn’t scoring down low, especially now that Patrick Patterson has morphed into a man of the outside, not the inside.

Consider Wednesday’s showing in Athens a sound response to the early-week buzz. A four-game shooting lapse was corrected. UK scored at will even though Cousins attempted exactly zero shots in the first half and finished with just six points.

The talk amounted to just that: talk.

Calipari blamed UK’s shooting woes — documented so well (and so deservedly) since a 2-for-22 3-point day against Tennessee on Saturday — on the way he’s run pre-game shootarounds as of late. Even Wednesday morning in Athens, Calipari said UK was dragging.

Then he told his players that this game was for at least a tie of the Southeastern Conference. “We had a really good shootaround after I said that,” Calipari said.

Take away Darius Miller’s 0-for-5 from deep, and UK shot 42 percent from behind the line. Miller earned his 15 minutes, though, on defense. A player not known for his defense — or perhaps more accurately, known for his below-average defense — blocked two shots and was responsible for several other misses in his time on the floor Wednesday.

And that strong defense created even stronger offense, even if Miller wasn’t the one hitting the shots.

“He was all in No. 1’s face, defending him on the perimeter, getting loose balls,” Patterson said, referring to Georgia’s Travis Leslie, who scored eight points on 4-for-13 shooting. “(Miller’s) shot wasn’t falling but he was more than making up for it on the defensive end.”

Patterson himself scored 17 points, but only four of those points were from the paint. The void in the middle, typically filled by Cousins, would have been highly visible if UK wasn’t hitting shots.

Georgia did all it could to exploit UK’s slight release from its usual stranglehold underneath. The Bulldogs outrebounded UK 37-28, including 18-to-8 on the offensive glass.

But when you shoot 54.4 percent from the floor, rebounding doesn’t mean quite as much as usual.

Because the Cats are under such an intense magnifying glass, the low rebounding totals and any other anomalies from Wednesday’s box score will buzz around Lexington until Sunday’s game against Florida.

But don’t listen.

It’s all talk.

James Pennington is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected].