Men's Basketball

Dec. 26, 2008

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Wildcats Return From Christmas Break

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Wildcats remember.

Nearly one year ago, UK returned from Christmas only to be shocked by little-known San Diego. In a loss that sent shock waves throughout the Bluegrass, UK dropped to 5-6 on the season and put itself behind the proverbial eight ball entering the meat of its schedule.

The Wildcats would eventually rebound from the loss and go on to make the NCAA Tournament, but it was clearly a wake-up call that they could ill-afford to overlook anybody on their schedule.

Now, a year later, it appears UK Coach Billy Gillispie has gotten the players’ attention. The Wildcats, winners of their last nine of 10 games, are playing their best ball of the year, but Gillispie has done everything he can to humble his squad and make sure they’ll avoid the post-Christmas blue this year.

“I have been very pleased with the way the team has come back (from Christmas break),” Gillispie said yesterday at his news conference. “It is probably the best team I have ever had as far as coming back after Christmas break. The intesity was great and we really went hard yesterday. … I could not be more pleased in the way they have come back.”

If the Wildcats (9-3) come back and play anything like they did before the break, it could be a long afternoon for Mike Jarvis’ Florida Atlantic (4-8, 0-2 Sun Belt) team. UK is averaging 88.8 points per game in its last three games, including a 102-58 win over Tennessee State on Monday.

Junior Jodie Meeks has been the driving force behind the Wildcats’ torrid play of late. After scoring 46 points against Appalachian State, the most by a Wildcat in Freedom Hall history, Meeks torched Tennessee State for 32 points.

But that’s just the start of the Owls’ problem this afternoon. Florida Atlantic is expected be without its leading rebounder (guard Xavier Perkins) and its tallest player (center Justin Davis), plus the Owls haven’t won a road game this season (0-7). The good news is the Owls are still welcoming back preseason All-America forward Carlos Monroe (13.7 points per game), who missed the first eight games of the year.

UK will counter Monroe with junior Patrick Patterson, who finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds the last time the Wildcats were on the hardwood.

That’s all we have for now. We’re still a little more than an hour until tip-off, but we’ll have more just as soon as we get underway at 3 p.m.

Head Coach Billy Gillispie Quotes

On Florida Atlantic…

“They are a team that has a lot of good players. They have a lot of transition of getting some new players and losing some of their older players. They had a lot of success at the beginning of the season. They have not been playing as well as late, but they are very capable of playing really well. They have a very good and talented coach. They have some very good and experienced players. If they put it all together then they can be a very good team. The bad part for them is that they have been on the road for seven games already and that can really take a toll on a team. After Christmas break a lot of teams can come back with a renewed energy and we have to be careful of that with this team.”

On the team coming back from break…

“I have been very pleased with the way the team has come back. It is probably the best team I have ever had as far as coming back after Christmas break. The intensity was great and we really went hard yesterday. We executed very poorly in the half-court offense yesterday, but today we had much better intensity and execution in practice. I could not be more pleased in the way they have come back.”

On Ramon Harris

“He practiced today, but he had to be taken off the court after he tightened up.  It was not related to when he and Michael Porter collided with each other. He is having muscle spasms from where he got hit last week in practice. He tightened up a little bit in practice yesterday after a lengthy practice and today he tightened up quicker today than he did yesterday. He was having spasms on both sides of his back from where he got hit.”

On being mentally prepared…

“I think it is all about mindset. A lot of the time guys are coming back after having to travel, especially when you practice at 4:00 like we did yesterday. I have never seen a team come back as focused and intense as this team is. They are very hungry to get better. We are really getting better and they are starting to understand that the way to get better is to get better in practice. We have been a good practicing team all year long. We are now starting to take responsibility for how we practice and we have to execute better in practice to be better during the game. The real season is here now.”

On Michael Porter

“I think he has been good all year but I think he has been great the past couple of games. The only thing that he has hasn’t done that I think he needs to do is shoot the ball more. He came here as a shooter. I don’t think he has gotten his feet set to shoot the ball because he hasn’t been looking to shoot the ball. He has a lot of things in his mechanics that is right and usually when he misses it is because of balance. As far as leadership and initiating offense and defense, Porter is getting the job done better than anyone probably ever thought he could.”

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