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Cat Attack 2-1-09

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By Brian Melton

The Kentucky Wildcats looked to rebound from their first conference loss of the season on Jan. 31 as they welcomed the South Carolina fighting chickens, I mean gamecocks, to town.  The Rupp Arena faithful hoped to feast on some Kentucky fried chicken after the game, but unfortunately South Carolina refused to become the Cats dinner.  The score remained close throughout the first half as both squads went on several runs.  Jodie Meeks picked up his second foul at the nine-minute mark and went to the bench for the rest of the half with only two points.  Kentucky was down by nine points when Coach Billy Gillispie picked up a technical foul that seemed to energize the team and crowd.  The Cats were able to fight back and took the lead into halftime on a last second three by DeAndre Liggins.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a coach as mad about a made three as Gillispie was after Liggins shot.  He was visibly angry at his inability to carry out instructions as he left the court for halftime.

The second half started with a bang as Meeks made his first four shots that helped Kentucky build a 10-point lead with just under 15 minutes left in the game.  That lead was short lived as the careless turnovers returned and South Carolina was able to retake the lead in only five minutes.  The game seesawed back and forth down the stretch until Devan Downey hit a two-point basket in the lane over Meeks with 3.2 seconds left to give South Carolina the 78-77 win.  

This game was the second straight disappointing loss for the Cats and continued the streak of poor performances.  Since conference play began, the Cats have struggled mightily with turnovers and on the offensive side of the court.  The historic 54-point game of Jodie Meeks helped mask the problems and struggles the team was having.  And other than the Tennessee game their play has been less than spectacular.  The basic problem is that this team just lacks the type of players that we as fans have grown accustomed to.  Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks are one of the best duos in college basketball, but the rest of this team is just really not that good.  Darius Miller has great potential and seems to improve with each game.  Ramon Harris is solid defensively, but is severely limited offensively.  Michael Porter is a tough defender as well, but can’t even make a simple lay-up.  Players win games and right now our players simply aren’t good enough.

This game also was, in my mind, the worst coaching performance by Billy Gillispie as head coach of Kentucky.  He made the decision to double team Devan Downey in the backcourt when the Cats had a three point lead with less than 30 seconds to play.  Downey easily passed out of trouble and South Carolina capitalized with an easy lay-up.  Then Perry Stevenson is fouled and the rest is history.  For a team that is allegedly a good defensive team, it made no sense to get the team out of position by trapping, rather than simply playing sound half court defense.  Worst-case scenario would have been a tie game with a last second shot for the win or overtime.  Instead we lose by one.  Also, Gillispie has seemed stubborn at times with playing time.  He has a tendency to stay with the same group of players regardless of how they are playing.  Sometimes a fresh face can help energize a team, but at times it seems he refuses to change things up.