Patterson comes alive when it matters most



With the first shot of the game, junior forward Patrick Patterson made his message clear — this is his team now and he will do everything he can to make sure the Cats aren’t going to lose again anytime soon.

At least, that’s what he showed Rupp Arena on Thursday night. Facing a still-pesky South Carolina team that refused to roll over and give UK its revenge without a fight, Patterson rebounded, scored, blocked shots and stole the ball left and right.

Consider this: if a UK player missed a shot, it was usually Patterson who was there for the rebound and the put-back shot. On one occasion, a South Carolina player falling out of bounds dished it straight to the big man, who got an easy dunk out of it. Even luck was in Patterson’s corner.

That wasn’t the only moment for Patterson, who led the Cats in scoring. When’s the last time that happened?

Thursday night was just another instance of Patterson stepping up his presence. On a team that’s been carried by freshmen for the first two-thirds of the season, it will take the eldest starter doing everything it takes to carry the Cats the final one-third.

“We need him to be this,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I want him to get 25 and 12 every night out. Shoot the ball, man … I’m proud of what he’s doing.”

Not that the idea is new to Patterson. He’s carried UK the last two seasons. But it’s new to this season.

When Devan Downey drove to the basket or dished to a teammate at the last second, it was Patterson going up to challenge (and usually block) the shot. He hustled down the floor and when the Cats weren’t on the fast break, usually started up the offense.

John Wall is still going to be the legend he is. DeMarcus Cousins will still be dominant in the paint. That won’t change, but this team will live and die off Patterson.

“When you have Patrick playing the way he’s playing, it takes the heat off everyone else,” Calipari said.

Pressed for clarification, Calipari said the Patterson is the difference between a blowout and a buzzer beater.

“There’s going to be a gap in the scoring (without Patterson), it’s going to be a 2-point game where a kid has to make a shot on national television,” Calipari said. “Now it’s a 15 point game (with Patterson).”

Need further proof?

To start the second half, Patterson grabbed a defensive rebound, hustled down the floor and tried to rebound a Cousins miss. When the Cats retained possession, it was Patterson who got the ball down low and laid the ball in for the first points of the second half.

When a guy scores a team’s first points of each half, he matters.

The more games Patterson has like the one he had Thursday night, the more UK looks like a definite Final Four team.

A trip to Indianapolis — sounds like something to really crow about.

Kenny Colston is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]