Old guys lead the way

This season it has often been the young guns that have taken the lead in guiding the Wildcats to another 20 win season. During this week's SEC Tournaments UK's elder statesmen have stepped to the forefront and have led the Wildcats into the SEC championship game.

ATLANTA — This was a Kentucky win for the old guys.

Juniors DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller along with senior Josh Harrellson combined for 38 points, 23 rebounds and eight assists here Saturday in Kentucky's 72-58 Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal win over Alabama.

When the Wildcats lost 68-66 at Alabama in January, the same trio combined for 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.

"The three veterans stepped up the last game (against Mississippi) and played really well again today," said Harrellson. "That's something we didn't have on the road in either game (UK also lost at Ole Miss during the season). In those games, we relied on freshmen to compete and carry the older guys. But this time we're stepping up and carrying our younger guys through it."

Liggins admitted UK might have been a bit lackadaisical early in the second half after building a 37-21 halftime lead.

"After Coach called a timeout, we knew we had to step on them and put the game away," Liggins, who had two of his three assists in a UK surge after the Tide cut the lead to 37-23, said.

Liggins finished with 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting overall and 3-for-3 from 3-point range. He also tied his career high with nine rebounds and just missed his first collegiate double-double.

"It would have been nice to get, but we won so I am happy," Liggins said.

Miller had 10 points — his eighth straight game in double figures — and made a confident 3-pointer late in the first half with the shot clock about to run out.

"I had my eye on the clock. I knew I had time to go up and get the shot off," Miller said.

Calipari said Miller's recent play is one reason has won five straight games and seven of the last eight.

"Darius Miller is not the same guy. Right now if we have had big shots in the last seven games, 12 of them finished games and Darius has made six of them," Calipari said.

Harrellson had his sixth double-double of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He was 6-for-9 from the field and more than held his own defensively.

"It's easy to trust Josh more now," UK freshman point guard Brandon Knight said. "I know he's got so much better. Once he catches the ball in the post, he is finishing strong. He's going after tips and just playing with a lot of confidence."

Calipari certainly bragged on Harrellson's performance.

"It's one thing in getting kids that are born on third base and helping them get home. And it's another thing when kids are outside the stadium trying to get in," Calipari said. "Some of it is in the environment they were brought up in and some of it is they just are fighting to be a significant player.

"And a guy like Josh who learned how to work, he did it. It wasn't what I did, he did it. He changed. If you're doing the same things over and over and thinking you're going to get a different result, that's insanity. That's the definition of insanity. You have to change. He changed. Did you see he caught it at the top of the key and shot a lay-up? Are you kidding me? I mean, I'm proud of him."

Harrellson said he "owed" his teammates to play better than he had at Ole Miss or Alabama.

"We came out and three veterans really stepped up the way Coach wanted," Harrellson, who is 11-for-16 from the field in the tourney, said. "It's been a fun year. Last year was fun going to the Elite Eight and playing with the guys we had. This year I didn't know what was going to happen, but I have worked hard and it is paying off for me.

"Coming into the tournament, I turned myself around to leave it all here. This is my last go-round and I want to leave it all in Atlanta because right now we are only focused on this tournament and nothing else."


AllWildcats Top Stories