Billy Gillispie's second edition of his Kentucky Wildcats is much different than the team we saw which made a 12-4 run through the SEC last year.
This year's squad seems more hardnosed, plays with more of an edge to its game, and is more than willing to get on the floor and fight for every loose ball.
This team also seems to rejoice in the successes of individual players on the team. The entire team seemed to be celebrating over the way Jodie Meeks took it to the Tennessee Volunteers on Tueday, and set a new all time single game record by scoring 54 points. Even Deandre Liggins, who has been the subject of rumors over some indiscretions of late was seen celebrating over on the bench, where he spent the entire game.
In Friday's press conference Gillispie said, "Our team is comprised of great, team-oriented people. Every single player on our team thinks Kentucky first and individual second. I think everyone has been truly happy when something has happened for another teammate; whether it was the last guy on the bench coming in and making a three at the end of a blowout game, or Patrick scoring a lot of points. I think our team has made it very clear that what they really want to do is win. We have a long way to go get better in every aspect. I think it is a close group and I think it always has been. They will continue to get closer as we go along and they are happy for each other every time they are out there."
After a terrible start to the season the Wildcats have settled down and taken better care of the ball. At one time the number of turnovers they had committed was well ahead of their assists, but now they are about even as the Wildcats have 303 assists and 304 turnovers on the season.
The team that was assist poor last season is averaging nearly 18 a game this season, and after 17 games played by each team trails league leading Florida by two assists.
The team that struggled to find points last season is second in scoring this year, trailing the same Tennessee team they layed a whipping on this past Tuesday, and is first in scoring margin.
The ability and willingness to share the ball has led them to a league best 51% FG shooting. No other team is above the 50% mark.
Sure, some will say it is easy to be a good shooting team with Patterson leading the league, but guys like Perry Stevenson (57%), Ramon Harris (65%), and Josh Harrellson (49%) are getting the ball in a position where they can put up high percentage shots.
While the Cats are leading the league in field goal percentage they are also among the leaders in holding opponents to a low percentage, allowing opponents to hit only 37% of their field goal attemtps on the season.
If opposing players get by the first wave of the Kentucky defense they still must be wary of the shotblocking abiltity of the Cats. Unlike league leading Mississippi State, which counts on Jarvis Varnado to do it all, the Cats block shots by committee. Everyone gets in on the action. Five Cats have blocked at least ten shots on the season.
Scrappier bunch of Cats to take on Dawgs
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