Gillispie, Wildcats Looking Past Vandy Loss

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky Billy Gillispie knows there's little good to be said about suffering the worst loss against a Southeastern Conference rival in school history.

Yet he's hardly pouting about the 93-52 meltdown the Wildcats endured against Vanderbilt on Tuesday.

"We didn't play very well but when one of those things happen, you need to make sure you give proper credit to the team that whipped you," Gillispie said. "Vanderbilt was fantastic that night and we didn't play very well. But I think it had to do more with how they made us play than anything else."

The loss snapped Kentucky's five-game winning streak, putting a screeching halt to whispers the Wildcats had played themselves back into NCAA tournament consideration. The whispers have quieted now, and Kentucky (12-10, 6-3 SEC) heads to LSU (9-14, 2-7) on Saturday simply hoping to put the Vanderbilt debacle squarely in the rearview mirror.

It won't be easy. The Tigers are coming off an impressive 85-73 win at Florida on Wednesday, giving interim head coach Butch Pierre his first victory since replacing John Brady earlier this month.

"They are a totally rejuvenated team," Gillispie said. "They are a very athletic team. They are experienced in some spots and have youthful exuberance in others."

That exuberance was on display against the Gators. Anthony Randolph scored 22 points and Marcus Thornton added 20 as the Tigers -- who have struggled offensively at times this year -- shot 60 percent from the field.

Gillispie credited some of LSU's success to the return of center Chris Johnson, who missed six games with a broken hand. The 6-11 Johnson gives the Tigers an athletic frontcourt that should have a considerable advantage over the smaller Wildcats.

"It will be a difficult matchup because of his ability to score around the basket," Gillispie said.

The Wildcats would like to counter with Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson, though Stevenson is coming off one of his worst performances of the season. The forward scored just five points in 12 minutes before fouling out against the Commodores. Stevenson's problems could be chalked up to growing pains as his role on the team expands, according to his coach.

"One of the biggest steps Perry has to take next is facing the responsibility of being a main player," Gillispie said. "There is pressure involved in becoming a starter and playing 30-plus minutes. We need him to be consistent and we're looking for him to accept responsibility."

The Wildcats hope guard Jodie Meeks can help take some of the pressure off. Meeks has missed five of the team's last nine games with a strained hip flexor. He played six minutes against the Commodores, but his status for the Tigers remains uncertain.

"Jodie is practicing like a guy who hasn't practiced in a long time, but his health seems to be improving," Gillispie said. "Until he gets some practice time, it's going to be difficult for him and he has to work himself into shape. It will take some time for him to understand how to play with these guys. It doesn't happen overnight."

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