- Saturday, November 29 2008 -
Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Invitational Championship (at Las Vegas, NV)
Kentucky - 54 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||5||0||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||2||1||0||0||0||0||0|
West Virginia - 43 (Head Coach: Bob Huggins) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: West Virginia 26, Kentucky 16
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Kansas State 74 - 72|||||Lamar 103 - 61|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Liggins loves Vegas
LAS VEGAS - DeAndre Liggins could have been banished to the end of the bench. Worse, he could have been dropped off at the former prep school he attended just outside the lights of Sin City.
Instead, Liggins staged his own story of redemption in the city that loves comebacks by pushing Kentucky past West Virginia 54-43 in an emotional victory at the Orleans Arena. The come from behind win left the Cats hoisting the championship trophy of the Las Vegas Invitational and Liggins earning a measure of respect back from teammates and coaching a day after refusing to enter a game.
"The stats may not show it on the sheet but if you watched the game DeAndre was the x-factor out there," forward Patrick Patterson said. "He was an animal out there on the defensive end."
Less than 24 hours prior Liggins couldn't have figured very prominently into UK's plans. The freshman point guard played two minutes in the first half of the Cats' win over Kansas State but declined to check in for Michael Porter during a second half timeout. UK coach Billy Gillispie said after that late night affair Liggins was unhappy with not playing more minutes.
He won't complain after this shining moment, not after the former Findlay (Nev.) Prep star had the most dominating 4-point, 3-assist, 2-rebound game recorded around UK in a long time.
"I thought he was great, I thought he was fantastic," Gillispie said. "As far as his situation last night I'm a hard guy, I'm a hard coach, there's no question about it but I'm a loving coach. I love competitors and I love guys that get madder than heck when they don't get a chance to play.
"I think he could have handled it better because it would have meant more to his teammates if he handled it better but I don't have a problem with a guy...I mean I've got a problem with a guy not going into a game, but he's a competitor, he wanted to play, he didn't handle it the right way but it's taken care of and he'll have a little extra stuff this week because of it. We weren't going to penalize the team today and I asked them how they wanted to take care of it and they said, 'Let's play our regular rotation and try to win this game.' He handled it great and it'll be a big stepping stone for him."
Liggins was a steadying influence on the offensive end but his emotion and aggression on the defensive end lit the Cats' ignition switch when the pilot light appeared all but out. The 6-foot-5 guard routinely got his hands on the ball, took a critical late charge and stuck a long jumper during UK's furious rally from 12 points down.
Upon sticking the aforementioned jumper Liggins, who is typically the model of a calm demeanor, let out a scream and shook his head as he ran down the court.
"We all pretty much talked to him, telling him we want him here, Coach Gillispie wants him here and we want him to play," Patterson said. "He just had a little moment and that's behind him now. He wants to be here. It's all behind us. He was happy. He wanted to get out there and play and that's what he did, he showed he can play."
As did Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller, both six games deep in their college career but playing with the maturity of veterans down the stretch. Harrellson get UK in the mix after Patterson went to the bench with foul trouble in the first half then worked in perfect concert with the star forward throughout the second half as UK stormed back to outscore the Mountaineers 34-11 over the final 14 minutes. Both Patterson (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Harrellson (12 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double doubles and were named to the All-Tournament team.
"I thought both of them were great," Gillispie said. "There were a lot of rebounds because they missed a lot of shots but I thought those guys did a fantastic job of going after rebounds instead of letting them come to them or just getting the ones coming to them and that's basically all we've done except for one game. They really hustled after the ball and when they got it they secured it and didn't let guys take it away."
Just like Liggins, who didn't let his second chance get taken away either.
Patrick Patterson defends against WVU's Joe Mazzulla
Perry Stevenson blocks Da'Sean Butler's layup attempt
Jodie Meeks shoots over Kevin Jones