- Saturday, February 21 2009 -
Tennessee - 58 (Head Coach: Bruce Pearl) - [Unranked]
|J.P. Prince (*)||25||5||8||0||0||1||1||4||2||6||4||1||2||0||2||11|
Kentucky - 77 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||6||1||3||0||0||3||4||1||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||5|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 31, Tennessee 24
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt 64 - 77|||||South Carolina 59 - 77|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Miller shines as Cats blast Vols
Billy Gillispie has dubbed Darius Miller a potential superstar in the making since he arrived on Kentucky's campus. It appears the soft-spoken freshman may finally believe it too.
Miller blossomed in one of UK's most important games to date, giving the Cats a third piece in what had been a two-man band all season as they blitzed SEC East-rival Tennessee 77-58 in front of the largest Rupp Arena crowd of the year. Having been proclaimed as difference maker Miller finally lived up to the catch phrase 'It's Miller Time.'
"Darius was great," Gillispie said. "That's the Darius Miller we recruited. He's been making strides and it's great for a guy like him to have a bust out game like that for what it can do the remainder of the season."
It's been a slow but steady rise for the forward from Maysville. Miller was billed as a home state hero who would step in and slide seamlessly into the role of third scorer behind Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks but struggled with the transition to a more physical college game for much of the first half of the season.
Yet when the Cats needed someone to alleviate the pressure being put on it's dynamic duo the most it was Miller - with some help from Michael Porter and others as well - who strode confidently into the limelight with career-highs in points (17), assists (six) and three-pointers made (three).
"This is Darius Miller," Patterson said. "We know he can do this whenever he wants to. When his mind is right he can do things like this. It opens up a lot (if Miller plays well). It's another threat, another scorer out there so if Darius can do that game in and game out the sky is the limit for this team."
The Cats entered round two of their annual rivalry with Tennessee knowing full well they escaped Knoxville five weeks earlier in large part because of Meeks' school-record 54 point virtuoso performance. With the Volunteers dead set on making sure they wouldn't be on the wrong end of ESPN's lead highlight they took aim at banging Meeks all over the court and forcing UK to find other alternatives.
It didn't take long for that to happen.
Ramon Harris offered a glimpse of what was to come when he swished a three - his first in 11 games - from the top of the key during a 13-0 UK run to start the game. Perry Stevenson and A.J. Stewart added several 12-to-15 foot jumpers, while Porter cashed three triples for only the third time in career. All of those impressive individual efforts paled in comparison to Miller's brilliance. He was perfect from the field (6-of-6), displayed a deft passing touch and even earned a chest pounding from Gillispie as he came off the floor after blocking a Tennessee shot.
"I don't think I've ever had that happen," Miller said of Gillispie's reaction. "Coach was really excited at that point in the game because we were up by a lot against a really great team.
"Coach said I played with a lot more confidence but I was just trying to make plays. They were really keying on Pat and Jodie so I was just trying to help them out and make some plays."
Miller's outburst apparently caught the Vols off guard.
"We tried to take away Kentucky's prime players and the rest of their team went crazy," Tennessee forward Wayne Chism said. "It felt like Kentucky was hitting everything."
Of course, for UK to make noise down the stretch and earn a NCAA Tournament berth Miller is going to need to continue what he started against the Volunteers.
"I really believe Darius is a very good offensive player so I've seen this happening," Gillispie said. "We've played 26 or 27 games so it's time for Darius to do that. We've had great expectations. They can't just be players out there they've got to make plays for us and produce."
Like any 'superstar' would.
Darius Miller pushes the ball up the floor
Michael Porter calls out a play
Jodie Meeks shoots over Tennessee's J.P. Prince