LEXINGTON — Learning roles is never an easy thing for a relatively young team to do, but coach John Calipari's team at Kentucky seems to be making progress.
Of course, it was easier to settle into a role against outmanned LSU here Saturday as the No. 13 Cats had no trouble rolling to a 80-44 victory. Kentucky was more talented, bigger, quicker and better shooters. That made it easy as six 3-pointers in 11 minutes enabled the Cats to open a 30-13 lead that was never in jeopardy of shrinking.
Just ask LSU coach Trent Johnson.
"I don't know what you want me to say That was jsut a good old-fashioned ass whipping," Johnson said. "They are very skilled. We knew that coming in. I have nothing to say except they beat us from top to bottom."
Of course, that was more than Kentucky coach John Calipari had to say after the game because he left immediately to recruit — reportedly to watch UK signee Anthony Davis of Chicago play in Dayton in the Flyin' To The Hoop Invitational.
Associate coach John Robic, though, had plenty of good things to say about the Cats who shot 50 percent (10-for-20) from 3-point range, had just seven turnovers and put five players in double figues.
"I think that they all know their roles now. It starts with (point guard) Brandon Knight," Robic said. "He is going to be able to score. But he's much more vocal in practice now and that carries over to game. Our older guys are also showing our younger guys what it takes.
"But the biggest thing is communication in practice is carrying over to games. You could also tell we had fresh legs because this is the point in time Coach cuts our practice time back and that helps us."
Here's a glance at how various Cats filled their roles against LSU to help UK win its 14th game in 17 outings as it prepares for upcoming Southeastern Conference road games:
Senior center Josh Harrellson went 1-for-6 from the field and scored only two points, but he still did his primary job by pulling off 14 rebounds, including five offensive boards. He also blocked three shots and made two steals. If he plays defense and rebounds, UK's offense can compensate for missing shots as he did Saturday.
Junior forward Darius Miller, who never seems to do enough to satisfy Calipari, had 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He was more aggressive going to the basket and even had four rebounds, two steals and one blocked shot.
"I thought Darius played well. He didn't fade on any shots. He had been fading on shots in the lane," Robic said. "He used his athleticism and rebounded the ball well. We have stressed staying in his (defensive) stance and staying low and I thought he did better. I guess the key word is being aggressive and I think he was that tonight."
Harrellson might be the team's most improved player, but DeAndre Liggins is not far behind. He had 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, along with three assists and two steals while continuing to play his suffocating defense. He's learned when to shoot, when to drive and when to pass and to always play defense.
Freshman Doron Lamb had an off shooting game — 3-for-7 from the field — and had 10 points. Yet he compensated with five of UK's 13 assists and also had a steal. He ran the court, passed the ball and tried to play defense even though he wasn't blistering the nets or getting many shots.
Brandon Knight hit two quick 3-pointers to start the rout and finished with 19 points thanks to a career-high five 3-pointers, six rebounds (another career high), two steals and two assists. He had a nifty follow basket in the first half when he soared above the rare and showed rare signs of jubilation with his own play. But he's running the team better and knows immediately when he makes a mistake.
Terrence Jones came off the bench for the second straight game, and even though he was 3-for-13 from the field — he's not shy about shooting — he still scored 17 points because he went inside, got fouled and hit 11 of 14 free throws. He also went to the boards and had seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
"If I am not making shots, that doesn't mean I still can't help us win," Jones said.
Jon Hood played a career-high 20 minutes as Calipari continues his quest to develop a seventh player. He scored only two points, but it came on an offensive putback. He was 1-for-6 from the field, but he stayed in the game because he had four rebounds and a career-high three assists. He didn't make spectacular plays or shots, but he also didn't make costly mistakes.
"I just think we are coming together as a team," Miller said. "The more we play together, the better we should get. We all understand more what it takes to win and what we can do to help us win."
And against LSU, that led to the "whipping" Johnson and the Tigers had to endure.
Kentucky shows signs of coming together
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