Patterson, Kentucky Regroup Against Liberty

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Freshman Patrick Patterson has the size and skills to be a dominant basketball player, but coach Billy Gillispie says the one thing holding him back is the lack of a mean streak.

The nice guy version of Patterson proved plenty for Liberty to handle Wednesday night as he had a career-high 23 points, helping Kentucky brush off the rust of a two-week layoff with an 80-54 victory.

Patterson chipped in 10 rebounds, making him the first Wildcat freshman with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game since Jason Parker in the 2001 NCAA tournament.

Afterward, when Gillispie commented about Patterson needing to acquire meanness, the coach was asked whether that is teachable. He said he would try.

"I don't know if you can, but if it's possible, they've got a good teacher, I promise you that," Gillispie said.

Patterson, the highly touted power forward out of West Virginia, was confident that his coach would make him a fiercer competitor, he said.

"He's going to improve everyone on this team," Patterson said. "Pretty soon, we're going to be a well-oiled machine."

The Wildcats (2-1) hadn't played since losing to Gardner-Webb Nov. 7 in round two of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic and were outscored 14-0 early in that one. This time, Kentucky's shooters were sharper out of the gate, particularly Patterson.

The Wildcats scored 18 of the game's first 22 points, getting baskets from five different players during that stretch.

Liberty coach Ritchie McKay said the national uproar about Kentucky's loss to Gardner-Webb was likely unwarranted.

"There might have been some overreaction," he said. "Kentucky basketball is in great shape. I think they're going to continue to uphold their tradition. I'm sorry it came at our expense."

A dunk by Patterson provided the biggest spark during the early run, and he added two one-handed jams midway through the second half to bury the Flames.

Patterson's point total was the highest for a Kentucky freshman since Randolph Morris had 25 against Campbell Dec. 29, 2004.

Liberty (2-4) used the outside shot to try to pull back into the game but connected on only one of 15 3-point attempts in the first half. By the time Anthony Smith provided their next two 3-pointers early in the second half, the game was largely out of reach.

Alex McLean led the Flames with 15 points.

With guard Jodie Meeks sidelined for at least a month with stress fracture to his pelvic area, coach Billy Gillispie started a lineup with three guards -- Ramel Bradley, Alex Legion and Michael Porter.

Not among the starters was senior Joe Crawford, but he made an impact when he appeared five minutes in. Crawford had 22 points and four assists -- one of which fed Patterson on an alley-oop dunk.

Crawford said his pass was late, but Patterson still turned it into the highlight of the game.

"Shows what kind of ability he has," Crawford said of his freshman teammate.

Crawford also nailed a 3 just before halftime that stretched the Kentucky lead to 36-21.

Despite playing a smaller lineup, Kentucky won the rebounding battle 38-30. However, the Flames had more offensive rebounds, getting four on one possession.

Kentucky made 55 percent of its shots, the first game of the Gillispie era shooting over 50 percent.

Defensively, Gillispie said he wasn't impressed. He pointed out several missed layups by the Wildcats turned into buckets for Liberty on the other end.

"Our transition defense still stinks," Gillispie said. "That's all about hustle and communication and being tough."

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