Kentucky wins by doing it Gillispie's way

During the preconference portion of the schedule media and fans have heard Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie lament that his Wildcats were not competing. Against the Vanderbilt Commodores the Wildcats competed, and showed the mental and physical toughness that Gillispie has sought to instill in the team since practice began.

The victory over Vandy can be traced to Kentucky playing more of the style that Billy Gillispie desires. Gillispie desires all out effort for every second the players are in the game, defensive intensity, and physical and mental toughness.

Gillispie often refers to those traits as "competing." The game against Vanderbilt marks the first time all season that this team has played most of the game Gillispie's way.

After the game Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said, "Kentucky played extremely hard, and very, very competitively."

That is exactly what Gillispie has preached since arriving in Lexington. He wanted the players to play hard and compete. Yesterday players took fewer plays off, playing hard for most of the afternoon, especially on defense. The players gave an effort that is much closer to 100% than any other game this season.

Game after game, after game this season fans have watched as the Cats took plays off, or played solid defense for 25-30 seconds, only to ease up and allow a team to score easy baskets. That was not evident yesterday to nearly the extent it was previously.

The defensive effort against Vanderbilt may have been the best effort the Cats have given all season. An example of this effort is the job that senior Joe Crawford did on Shan Foster, the SEC's leading scorer coming into the game. Crawford has not been known as a good defender in his career. Against Vandy Crawford put a damper on Foster's normally outstanding shooting. Foster scored 20 points, but most of his shots were contested, and he was held scoreless in the two overtime periods.

"Joe was great all day long," said Gillispie. "Nobody has probably ever had to tell him to be more aggressive offensively, but we did today. He did a fantastic job defensively. I'm really proud of his effort against one of the better payers (Shan Foster) in the country."

The Cats have been absolutely beaten mercilessly on the boards in games this season, as some of the players went through the motions rebounding the ball, and gave up easy boards to the opponents. In this game the players crashed the boards, ripped down rebounds and put forth a great amount of effort to secure the ball.

Ramel Bradley's comments are an indication that the team may now be focusing on the two keys to winning at the high-major level, defense and rebounding.

"During the huddles," said Bradley, "we just told each other to step up and rebound and to make stops."

Bradley wasn't the only Cat to comment on the emphasis on rebounding and defense.

"We knew we could play defense like this and rebound like this," said Patrick Patterson. "We just haven't done it to our potential this season. We were able to come out and play the way we can today."

The players appear to believe in the system much more than in the past, based upon their comments following the game. Patterson said, "This is the way we should have been playing the entire year. We should have been playing like this from day one."

Is this the game that turns the season around for the Cats?

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