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Blog Entry

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

Posted on: February 9, 2011 2:18 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 2:23 am
 

Posted by MATT JONES

LEXINGTON ---  Going into Tuesday night’s game against Tennessee, Kentucky coach John Calipari implored his upperclassmen to step and give the Wildcats some much-needed production and leadership. Calipari was surely tired of games like the one last week at Ole Miss in which his three Freshman accounted for 59 of the teams 69 points and seemed to be the only players on the roster who were capable of playing aggressively and without fear. The coach knew what any observer of the Wildcats could see. If Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb are the only scoring options on the team, then Kentucky is headed for a short run in March.

After Kentucky’s 73-61 victory over the Volunteers, it looks as if the message was received. The unheralded group of Kentucky upperclassmen, Deandre Liggins, Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller woke up to combine for 42 of Kentucky’s 71 points, their highest percentage of the team’s output collectively at any point this season. It was a performance that Calipari said was “fabulous” after the game adding, “we need them to be leaders and help us win against tough teams. Tonight they did that.”

Veteran leadership and performance is always important, but it is especially crucial for the very tricky environment created by a John Calipari team. In recent years, Calipari has become synonymous with the “one and done” talent he has coached, as players like Derrick Rose, John Wall and Demarcus Cousins make one year pit stops on a college campus to grace his programs with their uber-talent. When such a basketball force is just dropped from the sky onto a team, it certainly helps the overall talent, but it can make the team chemistry and relationship touchy to manage.

Imagine for a second if you are one of the 20 best players in America out of high school, as Jones, Knight and Lamb are, and have aspirations of a quick move to the NBA. It would be easy to look at your older teammates with a wary eye. You are expected to share the court with these Juniors and Seniors, who are clearly in your eyes less talented or else they would be in the NBA already, and then figure out how best to balance leadership and team chemistry with those who have seniority rather than ability. You want to respect these players, but if they are wilting in close games and forcing you youngsters to not only do the scoring, but also the leading, it could be easy to lose respect and team camaraderie.

That is why it is so important for John Calipari’s team to get production like Tuesday night from his older guys. Because Kentucky only goes six deep, Liggins, Harrellson and Miller will be playing a lot of minutes regardless and they must take on the leadership role for the team. But if they aren’t producing, their leadership ability is undermined and the young Freshman, who have been through no battles and are prone to cracking under pressure, have no one to keep them from making mental mistakes. Thus games like Tuesday versus Tennessee become so important.

Deandre Liggins was particularly impressive against the Vols, scoring 19 points in what was likely his best offensive performance of his UK career. Liggins is known for his role as a defensive stopper and he has established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in America. He handled that role well again, holding Scotty Hopson to 11 points, but for the first time in weeks, Liggins also took became an offensive creator, attacking the basket and drawing open looks for the UK three point shooters.

It was a performance that recalled the unlimited potential Liggins showed out of high school, when he had similar accolades to those now given to UK’s precocious freshmen. After arriving in Lexington under coach Billy Gillispie, Deandre had a rocky career, clashing with the former UK coach and nearly leaving the program before Gillispie’s departure. His career found new life as a defensive specialist under Calipari, but he has still taken a back seat to the rotating group of NBA Lottery picks that have come through Lexington during his last two years.

But Calipari now believes it is Deandre and the other upperclassmen’s time to shine, and more important tly, lead. He challenged each upperclassman to commit an action to his teammates going into the Tennessee game and each delivered on Tuesday night. Liggins rebounded the ball with authority, Harrellson added energy and effort and Miller attacked the basket while playing significantly less passive than in recent losses. Each decided that as Calipari said afterwards, they would “show that they are good basketball players” and not simply defer to the three freshmen that the 19 NBA scouts in attendance came to see. The end result was only the second game all season in which they accounted for over 55 percent of the team’s points as a group and an impressive victory.

But just as important as the win, the upperclassmen’s performance raised the spirit of the team and its potential going forward. As Doron Lamb said afterwards, “when those guys play good, I want to play just as good for them. They raise our energy and make it to where we can look up to them during the game.” The last point is the crucial one. Rather than just seeing the three upperclassmen as players the talented freshmen must carry, when the older Cats pull their weight, they then have the ability to lead.  And that leadership can then make up for the talented freshmen’s youth and inexperience.

John Calipari doesn’t expect to get 42 points from the trio of Liggins, Harrellson and Miller often this season, nor does he have to for success. In games where they score at that rate, he knows the Cats will  be difficult to beat, especially if Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight produce their normal offensive outputs. But Calipari doesn’t need star turns from his upperclassmen. He needs performances that are solid enough that they then can create the respect necessary to provide what this team needs more than anything, veteran leadership. Be good enough to harness the respect of their talented freshmen teammates, and this upperclass trio can have an impact much greater than their scoring output. That could then make Kentucky quite a dangerous team.

Category: NCAAB
Comments

Since: Jan 31, 2011
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

I didn't know that uk had any upperclassmen!?! What with all the one and done players calapari recruits!



Since: Jan 31, 2011
Posted on: February 10, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

Areed!! I will go out of my way to annoy, bug or pi$$ off a uk fan!!! They are the most smug fan base around! Plus being a IU fan it's about all i got right now...although things are looking better!!




Since: Jan 20, 2009
Posted on: February 9, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

What is this chucklehead even doing on this thread? He's clearly upset that TJones chose UK over UW which is the same thing every other top level recruit has done since Naismith hung the first peach basket...no matter who the UK coach has been. My guess is that this guy sits alone in his mother's basement watching too much internet porn and is too meek to even raise his voice in the presence of an adult. In fact, he's said nothing
Trojones,

What am I doin on this thread?  I was actually talking to the TRUE UK fans, not you lil fella.  You live in Florida, yet you root for teams from San Diego, LA, Oakland, and Kentucky....can we say "BANDWAGON"??  Let me guess, you have just become a Green Bay fan too right?  My guess about you, is that you've never played a sport in your life, but you over hear your co-workers talking sports at lunch in which you repeat on here as your own words.



Anyone can be simple enough to pick out blocks of time and claim this fact or that fact.
Blocks of time?  I'm not sitting here saying that UK hasn't won from 1992-1995.  I'm talking about NOW.  I'm talking about the last 10 years.  How many times have you went to the Final Four in the last 10 years is all I'm asking.  I know UK had championships back when parents were in high school.  It was also cool to smoke joints and have unprotected sex back then too!  Times have changed. 

But it all makes sense.  If I lived in a place with no professional sports, I'd probably take offense to everything bad said about my college team too!  Well, not in the case of Trojones who only roots for the winners.



Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: February 9, 2011 5:11 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

And if I may reiterate cf nky, along with too much internet porn, what's wrong with putting blunts in the air? I mean, what's a man supposed to do in his basement?



Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: February 9, 2011 5:08 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

Being brought down to our level. Hilarious. Over the last decade we have been a better basketball program, hands down. And I don't care if you have a better head-to-head record this decade, we've still been better overall. Not even close. Get down off that pedestal. That's why every other fan base hates you. It's not b/c they're jealous, they just don't want to be talked down to.

Kansas, Duke, UCLA, and UNC have every bit of a right if not more to talk down to to other fans, but I rarely see it.

Another thing that just isn't that funny: making fun of the name of our arena. Well, it is one of the largest corporate headquarters in the entire Commonwealth. I think the bucket heads in the student section are classic college debauchery. Whenever you guys 1-up us, which will be soon no doubt, you will porbably be playing in the Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance Arena, which is quite more redneck, but I'm sure that's right up your alley.




Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: February 9, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

maybe, just maybe, if i keep commenting on this post I will build up enough 'points' to up my 'rep' on this site to the level that you guys have and I'll have some cred on this site...oh what a dream that is! what.a.dream!



Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: February 9, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

yeah, you're excuses about being 'depleted' are weak...want to talk about being depleted? How about losing 5 players to the draft and 2 players that were seniors...and coming back the next year with only 6 players in rotation...that's depleted...and we still managed to whip the Cards in their own chicken bucket. so keep crying!



Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: February 9, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

Bluegrass - anything can happen in March, this one in particular. I see no stand-out teams, besides maybe Ohio St, but even they don't seem to have that dominance that I would be afraid to death to run into. I could see either UK or UL making a deep tourney run, or both, or neither. They're both flawed teams and I think whoever gets the better matchups in their respective 1st and 2nd rounds will probably go farther.

I think if we were sitting around the campfire listening to good some tunes with a little somethin somethin to pass around instead of being at the office, we could have a much more relaxed and productive conversation.



Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: February 9, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

and I don't call you 'little brother' bc I don't think UK deserves to be brought down to the level of being related in any way to UL. You guys wear chicken buckets on your heads, for crying out loud...pathetic.



Since: Feb 9, 2011
Posted on: February 9, 2011 4:56 pm
 

Kentucky upperclassmen step up against Tennessee

ha 'my rep on here;A BIG FAT ZERO'...so because I'm not on here every day like you probably are, I'm supposed to take that comment as an insult. Ah, typical UL moron. How about you go have your mom trim up your line beard when you're done smoking that blunt in your basement?
CBS knew who Jones was when they hired him...a UK fan. They knew he was going to write UK articles and I'm quite certain that's the main reason they hired himm...bc most UK fans read about their team, so they are getting what they wanted out of his articles...hits on their site...and they are getting them not only from UK fans, but from all you irate L'ville fans with nothing to do but whine about the attention UK gets. 


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