Darius Miller went for a career high 17 points on a perfect 6-6 shooting from the floor, his effort plus the return of Patrick Patterson led Kentucky to a 77-58 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.
In the previous meeting Jodie Meeks went for a school record 54 points in a 18 point rout of Tennessee, but this time was held to just 14 points. While Tennessee did a great job from keeping Jodie from scoring he still played very well as they continually put pressure on Jodie often times leaving someone else wide open for the shot. Even when he is not scoring 40+ points he proves how valuable of a player he really is. He demands so much attention that if Porter, Miller, Harris, and Stevenson can continue hitting open shots than this team can be go from average to very good.
This game was won the minute Patrick Patterson walked onto the floor. He had a team high 19 points and along with Jodie Meeks commanded so much attention from the UT defense that it often left wide open shots for everyone else. He played not only well on the offensive end of the floor, but the defensive end as well by altering shots and not allowing points in the paint. For Kentucky to be able to win and make a run in the tournament Patterson must stay healthy and out of foul trouble as without him Kentucky will struggle to win games.
The main story however has to be the emergence of Darius Miller. He had a career high 17 points and was perfect from the field while also dishing out 6 assists and playing solid defense. This is the player everyone had been waiting all year to see and on Saturday he delivered. Earlier in the year he looked very timid and would often pass up open shots, but that was not the case on Saturday, he played with confidence and looked like the new third scorer that the Cats have been so desperately looking for and needing.
Michael Porter had a very solid game hitting 3 three balls. Perry Stevenson early on hit some open shots which forced UT to pay attention to him all game instead of backing off and using his man to shadow Patterson. When UK can get the likes of Harris, Stevenson, Liggins, Porter, and Galloway to hit open shots they become a much different and much better team that is very hard to defend. Hitting the open shots forces the defense to key in on these players and therefore allows Jodie and Patterson to get better looks throughout the game.
It was a great game by the Cats with only one negative that I saw in the game. Kentucky allowed way to many offensive rebounds and second chance points. If Kentucky had boxed out and cut their offensive rebounds in half it would have been a 30 point win. While it did not harm the Cats on Saturday 5-6 extra offensive boards and 10-12 extra second chance points in the tournament could be the difference between advancing to the next round and going home early.
UK heads to South Carolina on Wednesday and I will have a full update on the game coming Thursday with a couple posts coming before that.