UK Opens Gillispie Era With Exhibtion Blowout

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Billy Gillispie took the court as Kentucky's coach for the first time Wednesday night and, if one exhibition game is any indication, he's making good on his promise to turn up the tempo.

The Wildcats used some impressive 3-point shooting and numerous fast-break baskets to run all over Pikeville College 99-64.

"I wasn't nervous, but I was anxious about the game," Gillispie said.

Gillispie, wearing a gray suit and bright yellow tie, knelt just inside the coaching box at the corner of Kentucky's bench much of the game. Although it was the first of two that won't count in the standings for the Wildcats this week, the new coach intensely followed the action, barking at his players and occasionally the referees.

If Gillispie was the most-watched newcomer at Rupp Arena on Wednesday night, second was freshman power forward Patrick Patterson -- a blue chip recruit from West Virginia.

Patterson, who was 10-of-12 from the field for 21 points, entered the game to resounding cheers less than two minutes in and scored four seconds later in the paint. He added an alley-oop layup late in the first half and his first dunk as a Wildcat early in the second.

"It's overwhelming," Patterson said. "You've got thousands of fans screaming your name."

Patterson certainly caught the attention of Pikeville coach Kelly Wells.

"He's as good as advertised," Wells said. "... It's hard to do anything with him."

Kentucky shot 63 percent, but by far the hottest touch belonged to sophomore guard Jodie Meeks. He led the way with 34 points and was 7-of-9 from 3-point range.

Gillispie said there was no game plan to let Meeks take the shots. He just happened to be open, time and again.

"The open man takes the open shot here," Gillispie said. "If that's what it's going to be like, we're going to shoot them. We're not going to shoot them without a purpose."

Meeks' 27 points in the first half matched Pikeville's total. His career high is 18, but the exhibition totals don't count in the record book.

"It doesn't mean anything," Meeks said of his impressive shooting performance. "We just have to get to work."

If the game was ever in question, the Wildcats put it out of reach early in the first half with a 16-0 run that made it 29-9. All but one point in that span came from long range, as Meeks nailed three 3-pointers and Joe Crawford added two.

"It feels like we're coming together," Crawford said. "Seems like it's going to be a fun year."

Kentucky's defense was nearly as impressive, allowing no fast-break baskets -- compared with 18 points for the Wildcats -- and only seven second-chance points.

Gillispie, who said he still hadn't settled on his starting lineup Tuesday night, furiously mixed and matched throughout the game, using 12 players and a variety of combinations.

His exhibition starting lineup featured senior guard Ramel Bradley and four sophomores: Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, Mark Coury and Meeks.

The Wildcats play another exhibition Saturday against Seattle before opening the regular season Tuesday against Central Arkansas.

Gillispie said he was pleased with the effort in the opener but promised his team would be better prepared next time.

"We have a million obstacles, but because of their efforts, because of their attitude, we'll accomplish a lot of them," he said.

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