LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jodie Meeks was again fabulous late Friday (37 points on 11-of-17 shooting), which was good and necessary for Kentucky because the Wildcats were down a guard in their 74-72 victory over Kansas State.
Was somebody injured, you ask?
The reality is that freshman DeAndre Liggins pulled a Stephon Marbury and refused to enter the game in the second half after playing just two minutes in the first half, according to Brett Dawson of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Not only did this put Billy Gillispie in a bind, but it forced starting point guard Michael Porter to play 36 minutes even though he'll have to be on the court again Saturday -- less than 24 hours after Friday's final horn -- when UK meets West Virginia in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational.
"He played very gutsy, because he was totally physically drained and worn out," Gillispie said of Porter. "He needed to be rested. He needed to not play so many minutes. But he had to. He showed a lot of toughness and grittiness."
"I was really surprised by (his refusal to enter the game), but it's a freshman that's really competitive that wants to play all the time, and when you don't get to play all the time, sometimes you make mistakes like that," Gillispie said. "Hopefully it won't be repeated."
On one hand, this is bad. But on another it might be exactly what Gillispie needs to rally his willing and able players into an us-against-the-world mindset, because if there's one thing players don't like it's feeling like they were abandoned by a teammate (see Quintin Richardson's recent comments about Marbury as proof). That's why it's reasonable to suggest the players will side with Gillispie on this one, which means Gillispie might finally have everybody on his side and by extension the motivating factor needed to get this season turned around.
As for Liggins, I'll say this: The guy has been given every opportunity to play as many minutes as he could ever want, if only because UK has no great options at point guard. But he's been a huge disappointment so far (17 assists and 17 turnovers through five games), nowhere near good enough to throw fits. So if he's smart he'll apologize to his teammates and coaches, get into the gym, get better and start trying to be the point guard Kentucky so desperately needs him to be instead of the distraction he was Friday night when Gillispie wisely decided to limit his minutes in the spirit of winning a key non-league match-up only to have Liggins limit them further, and in a shameful way.