Sure, shooting well is always a priority — but UK shot 56 percent at Tennessee Tuesday and lost. Rebounding is another must — but UK also won the board battle against the Vols and still lost.
More production from Randolph Morris couldn't hurt. Yet isn't it hard to place too much fault on a p layer averaging 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game who is shooting 58.7 percent from the field? Morris might not always be a dominating presence, but those numbers prove he's played well most of the season, especially with the lack of inside help he has.
No, for Kentucky to be a legitimate contender in March, coach Tubby Smith has to consider some major changes.
One, Bobby Perry has to play less and Perry Stevenson more. I know Perry is a senior and experienced played. However, he's shooting only 38.9 percent from the field and averaging only 3.7 rebounds per game. He has more turnovers (38) than assists (37). He's often been a defensive liability as well.
Stevenson is not an offensive machine, but in about half the playing time Perry has Stevenson has score 87 points to Perry's 175. Basically, that's about the same production. The plus is that Stevenson is a better rebounder and far better shot blocker. He gets beat defensively, too, but at least he can alter shots and give Morris some needed relief.
I recently asked Smith what Stevenson had to do to be able to play in the second half of games. Remember his answer:
"It depends on where we are and the physicality of the game. When the game gets physical, he has got to use his quickness to shut down opponents. He's great at running the floor. He's learning to face the basket and make jump shots. His opportunities will come."
So what does he have to do to play more? "It is nothing but a coach's decision. There is nothing he has to do more of. We have Bobby Perry, Sheray Thomas, Lukasz Obrzut and Randolph Morris. They are seniors. He is a freshman. Once he grows and gets stronger and heavier, he will probably be our starting forward," Smith said. Still, it looks to me like it is time to make a coach's decision to let the freshman play more and accept that Perry, Thomas and Obrzut are not suddenly going to blossom into dominating offensive or defensive players.
Two, post up Derrick Jasper. Smith often talks about the liabilities Jasper has trying to defend a smaller, quicker guard. Why not reverse that and make those smaller, quicker guards have to find a way to defend him near the basket? Third, make Ramel Bradley aware that if he's not more patient, he will find himself on the bench more and more. Bradley can be brilliant — or awful. I don't want to say he's selfish, but sometimes he becomes too consumed with trying to making a play by himself and fails to recognize or remember that UK has other options. Will this help? Could this work? Will Smith be bold enough to try anything different these last five regular-season games?
I wish I knew. However, I'm convinced that if this team wants to reach the potential Smith believes it has — and the potential this team has shown at times it has — then it's time to make some subtle changes before another year ends with everyone talking about what might have been.