Cats Prepping For Auburn

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Jodie Meeks setting the college basketball world abuzz with a 54-point avalanche in a road win at Tennessee and a 23-point blowout over Georgia wasn't quite enough to get Kentucky back into the Top 25 for the first time in over a year.

Still, coach Billy Gillispie isn't playing the "lack of respect card," at least not yet.

"The late Paul Brown said, 'When you're winning say nothing and when you're losing say even less,"' Gillispie said. "That's really a good deal for all of us to go by whether you're playing basketball or whatever you're doing. I'd probably still be married if I would have done that."

All kidding aside, Gillispie isn't worried about where his team stands nationally and neither do his players. The Wildcats (14-4, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) figure if they keep winning games -- starting on Wednesday night against Auburn (11-6, 1-2) -- people will notice soon enough.

"I believe that our time will come if we keep doing what we are doing," said forward Ramon Harris. "We will let the rankings handle themselves."

The rankings currently aren't being so kind to the SEC, which has just one team -- No. 24 Florida -- in the polls this week. Gillispie, however, doesn't consider that a sign of disrespect.

"The thing about it is you get a chance to play in a league that gets great exposure and over the course of the season that's going to play itself out because there are a lot of really good teams in this league," he said.

Maybe, but the jury is still out on whether the Tigers are among them. Auburn has played well at times this year and is coming off a solid 85-71 win over rival Alabama. But the Tigers have struggled for years against the Wildcats and haven't won in Rupp Arena since 1988.

Still, Gillispie and the Wildcats remain wary.

"Their losses were only by one, three, four, four, four, seven and 12 points," Gillispie said. "They have played a difficult schedule. ... They could easily be 3-0 in our league."

Instead it's the Wildcats who come in with a perfect record thanks in part to the red-hot Meeks, who leads the SEC with 25.7 points per game. Yet Gillispie said Meeks and forward Patrick Patterson have done as much for the Wildcats in the locker room as they've done on the court.

"The reason that Darius (Miller), DeAndre (Liggins), Josh (Harrellson) and A.J. (Stewart) are about to take off is because of their leadership," Gillispie said of Meeks and Patterson. "They've had some immature moments and that's what young players do, that's what new players do, and (Patterson and Meeks) have done a great job of helping through those moments with only one thing in mind and that's helping the team get better."

Even if it means playing hurt.

Patterson has been dealing with a minor hand injury over the last 10 days. Though he's kept quiet about the pain, Gillispie thinks it is affecting his sophomore center during games. Patterson's scoring has dipped to 11.7 points per game in SEC play, down from nearly 20 points a game during the nonconference season.

"It is a concern, but he hasn't said much about it," Gillispie said. "We need him to get better, because I think it is affecting how he has been gripping the basketball and maybe catching the basketball."

Of course, getting double-teamed as Patterson has been over the last three games doesn't help. The Wildcats, however, have survived thanks in part to Meeks and contributions from role players like Perry Stevenson, who had 13 points and six rebounds in the win over the Bulldogs.

Gillispie is pleased with Stevenson's progress but would like to see some consistency.

"When you have players like Jodie and Patrick on your team, I think that (Stevenson) thinks he can go on vacation for a while and come back and you are still going to have a job," Gillispie said. "He needs to change his thought process in that a little bit."

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