Visitors from home

This has been a special weekend for Kentucky junior DeAndre Liggins. Yes, the win over Georgia was big; but there are games every weekend and all are big. This weekend Liggins had a special rooting section comprised of family members making their first trek to see him play this season.

Terrence Jones has grown to know DeAndre Liggins well enough to know his Kentucky teammate was excited.

"You could just tell by the way he talked. He was so excited. They had been planning this for a while, so he was really excited," said Jones.

What had Liggins so excited even before Kentucky beat Georgia 66-60 was that his mother, sister and cousins had made the five-hour drive from Chicago to see him play for the first time this season.

"They all took off word and I am so happy that they showed up and we won," said Liggins, who had 11 points, two steals, two rebounds, one blocked shot and one assist in 36 action-packed minutes.

He even had a brief exchange with Coach John Calipari after a late turnover — his only one of the game — earned him a spot on the bench.

"I made a mistake and turned the ball over," Liggins said. "I got frustrated. After that, it was over. We quashed it and I went back to playing."

No one plays harder or more passionately than Liggins. His family did a little of the same as they were loud — very loud — in their support of him even though he insisted Rupp Arena was so loud he could not hear them even when they cheered after he made a lay-up in pregame.

"That's just how my family is. They are loud and make their presence felt," he said. Calipari's biggest complaint with UK's play was that Liggins, Darius Miller or Josh Harrellson did not make their presence felt more in the closing minutes when the Cats were threatening to squander what had been a 17-point lead in the first half.

"It's got to be about them: what they accept, what they affect, and they have to be the guys making plays down the stretch, not freshmen. If our freshmen happen to do it, fine. But we can't count on those guys; they are freshmen. Get me those upperclassmen," Calipari said.

Kentucky did somewhat stagger to the finish just as it had in its last game — a win at South Carolina. The Wildcats had three late turnovers, missed key free thr

ows and broke off the offense more than Calipari wanted.

Considering Miller, Knight and Liggins were a combined 11-for-32 from the field, it's a bit surprising UK did win. Or considering Jones, UK's leading scorer, played just seven minutes the first half, it's a bit surprising UK did win. Or considering the Cats were outrebounded 41-32 and had just one field goal in a 10-minute span in the second half, it's more than a bit surprising UK did win.

That's why Liggins, a junior, did understand Calipari's frustration about the way UK closed the game.

"The first half we played really good," Liggins, who had nine points in the first half, said. "We made all the plays on offense and defense. The second half we backed down and gave them a chance. When Georgia made a push, as we knew they would, we didn't respond.

"As veterans, we did not step up like we should. At the end of the game, me, Josh or Darius have to make big plays and help the freshmen out more."

Calipari hopes his players understand why they must do that, too.

"We easily left ourselves in a position that we could have dropped this. There was no reason for that," the Kentucky coach said. "We had this game in hand, and we did some things down the stretch missing free throws, missing a couple little steps, just a guy drives left and missed it. You can't break down defensively, give up a couple 3s, and all of a sudden it's a five-, six-point game."

What did he want to see from Miller, Liggins and Harrellson in the final five minutes?

"You must be the tough guys. You've got to make the tough plays. You're not missing a rebound, can't be. That's one. Two, you've got to be really strong with the ball so you're not getting balls ripped out of your hands, like not happening, and you're making easy plays," Calipari said. "And then all of a sudden, you make that big block, you get that big rebound, you dive on the floor and get the ball and make that charge.

Maybe you're counting on those guys (freshmen) to make a basket that you're not as good making. That's okay. But all of those other things, those guys should be able to do." Liggins agreed. However, for a few brief hours, he was not going to worry about that. Instead, he was going to enjoy his family. "We are going out to eat and then just probably chill at the hotel," he said. "I am hoping they will come back next month, but I never know so I want to enjoy just a little bit of time with them."

No way to fault him for that.

AllWildcats Top Stories