Gillispie: Liggins Decision To Sit Was A Mistake

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Billy Gillispie has an unusual way of punishing insubordination.

After point guard DeAndre Liggins refused to re-enter the game in last Friday's Las Vegas Invitational win over Kansas State, the Kentucky coach could think of nothing worse than having Liggins spend nearly half an hour on the court the next night in the tournament's championship game.

"The easiest thing for him to do was to not play on Saturday," Gillispie said. "It showed a great deal of toughness, a great deal of caring and a great deal of remorse by playing. It would have been easier for him to say 'I'm not playing today."'

Liggins, who has shared the point guard position with junior Michael Porter, was pulled from the Kansas State game after playing two minutes and committing a costly turnover. He refused to re-enter the court minutes later when Gillispie called him up.

The coach said Liggins' refusal to enter the game was a matter of not having played enough in front of friends and family who were in attendance. After the game, Gillispie said the Kentucky players voiced their support for Liggins and asked that he continue to be a part of the team.

"We didn't let it become an issue, it won't be an issue and it hasn't been an issue," Gillispie said. "It's a learning experience and a chance to move on, and it would have been easy as a coach to say 'You can't play.' But you don't cut off your nose to spite your face."

Liggins came out the next night in the win against West Virginia, tallying four points, three assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes of playing time.

"I think it showed a great deal of courage by him," Gillispie said.

Kentucky (4-2) has searched for a consistent point guard since the start of the season. Gillispie has turned to the veteran Porter to pull more of the weight, but Gillispie said he saw something in Liggins' performance against the Mountaineers that the team has been lacking: leadership.

"He was a commander at the position and that's the best I've seen maybe in the two years I've been here," Gillispie said. "We had an offensive and a defensive presence that I thought we probably never really had."

A floor general would greatly benefit Kentucky, which is averaging nearly 23 turnovers a game.

"We've never turned it over like this (in my career)," Gillispie said. "A lot of it has to do with decision making and athletic ability or a lack there of. I don't think we're a fast team. I think we're big and strong and athletic in that sense, but not a real quick team."

After starting the year with a home opening loss to Virginia Military Institute and a 19 Carolina, Gillispie said his team gained some momentum in winning in Las Vegas.

"Our team had confidence going in and our team has more confidence coming out," Gillispie said. "Those were two ugly wins that we got, but they were wins."

The Wildcats host Lamar (5-0) on Wednesday.

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