Wildcats defeat Florida International 92-49

Ramel Bradley scored 22 points for the Wildcats, including the 1000th point of his career, as the Wildcats played some of their best basketball of the season in a victory over Florida International University, in Rupp Arena. The game featured significant playing time for Kentucky sophomores Jodie Meeks and Derrick Jasper, who have been sidelined with injury.

e first half Billy Gillispie put five players on the floor that many fans thought they would see often this season, Jodie Meeks, Derrick Jasper, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Patrick Patterson. The quintet did not disappoint the fans as they fueled a 15-3 run that led the Cats to a 92-49 victory over Florida International to close out 2007.

Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said of the performance, "It was a much better result for us and a much needed win. I'm excited and very happy about the way they played. We showed good teamwork and it was the first time I think we really worked hard at playing together. I think we are heading in the right direction. We didn't rebound as well as I would have liked us to in the first half. We did try and hustle and I was proud of their effort."

The first half looked to end in disappointing fashion for the Cats, as a long pass to Mark Coury under the basket on the break was fumbled out of bounds. Kentucky applied the pressure on the inbounds play, forcing a turnover. Bradley stole the errant pass at midcourt and drove to the basket for a layup, which dropped through the basket to make the score 43-21 as the buzzer sounded ending the first half of play.

The Golden Panthers came out to begin the second half with fire in their eyes, and trimmed the lead to 45-30 early in the second half. Kentucky then went on 14-2 run to make the score 59-32.

Jasper played 28-minutes in his second appearance of the season, after missing the first ten games, scored four points. The sophomore guard dished out five assists and grabbed a team high ten boards, while contributing four points. Jasper made his only field goal attempt, a three-pointer.

Gillispie spoke of the importance of Jasper to the team after the game. Gillispie said, "In my opinion Derrick was the most dominant player in the game today and he only took one shot. Derrick is not a savior, but he makes so many things so much easier for so many other players. That is what a great player does. Hopefully, he will continue with his good help and continue to keep a good outlook. He sees the game before it happens and understands how to count. The ball does not stick in his hands. He is still rusty obviously, but he is playing with a lot of confidence.

"Most importantly I think you can see the difference in the body language of the other players when he is on the court. I think it makes a big difference when he is on the court. I don't know how to explain it, but the guys just look so much more confident when he is on the court. He is a good player that is not looking to take his shot but takes good shots. I'm learning about him but he has not played enough yet to completely understand everything about how he plays. He will make some plays that can't need to be coached and I think that gives everyone confidence."

Meeks, who looked to be moving much better than he did in the game on Saturday, displayed the stat stuffing effort Kentucky fans had come to expect of the sophomore. Meeks scored 21 points, while hitting on five of ten field goals, including 5 of 9 from behind the arc. Meeks was perfect from the charity stripe on six attempts. Meeks spoke of his injury after the game. The sophomore said, "I feel better, but I am still receiving treatment for the injury. It does get stiff every once in a while. I can't really worry about it much because I don't play for me; I have to play for the team, and the team needs me."

Gillispie said, "Jodie is a good player and he is a good shooter, but he has to be healthy to play. Today he was healthy."

Bradley led Kentucky in scoring with 22 points.

Patterson was frustrated early, as he was double and triple teamed, but finished the game with 20 points. The freshman was 7 of 11 from the field, and pulled down 5 rebounds, four on the offensive end, and blocked a game high three shots.

Crawford added 11 points for the Wildcats, giving the home team four players in double figures. Sophomore Ramon Harris scored three points, all on free throws, as he did not attempt a field goal. Sophomore Mark Coury was perfect from the field on his two attempts for four points. Michael Porter contributed 2 points.

Walk-ons Dwight Perry and Mark Krebs rounded out the scoring for the Wildcats. Perry hit two of three charity tosses for 2 points after being fouled shooting a three by Alex Galindo. Krebs drained a three in his only field goal attempt of the game. It was the first appearance by the sophomore Krebs this season, after transferring to Kentucky from Thomas More College.

Galindo came in as the Golden Panthers' leading scorer. The stingy Kentucky defense held him scoreless on six field goal attempts. The junior became frustrated in the game and fouled out late in the game, when he fouled Perry on a three-point attempt. The frustration boiled over as he left the floor, picking up a technical foul for his poor choice of words directed toward the officials.

Seven-footer Russell Hicks led the FIU team in scoring with 17, and Kenneth White added 11 for the visitors.

Kentucky won the battle of the boards for one of the few times this season, 32-25. The Wildcats took better care of the basketball, and finished with 14 turnovers, while forcing 17. It was the first game the Wildcats had won the battle of turnovers since the November 24th victory over Texas Southern.

Kentucky shot 40 free throws, making 31, to 17 attempts for FIU. This was just the second time this season that the Wildcats have shot more free throws than their opponents. Kentucky last shot more free throws than an opponent during the victory over Liberty.

While fifteen Wildcats saw action Kentucky freshman A.J. Stewart did not make an appearance in the game. After the game Gillispie reported that, "A.J. Stewart is injured right now and we will use him when he gets healthier. We want everyone to be 100 percent and we will be better when that happens."

The Wildcats next take the floor to play rival Louisville, on Saturday at 4:00 pm. The game will be televised by CBS.

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