It was by no means a thing of beauty, but UK's 76-69 win over Florida Atlantic was "exactly what we needed," said Wildcats coach Billy Gillispie.
The coach noted his team's four previous games, in which the Cats jumped out to quick leads, never trailing and cruising to big wins. With the SEC schedule and rival Louisville looming, Gillispie actually sounded happy his team had to fight and scratch on Saturday to pull out the win against Mike Jarvis' Owls.
Thanks to Paul Graham's 31-point effort, FAU actually led the Cats 51-46 five minutes into the second half. Gillispie said he put six different defenders on Graham. Until Michael Porter drew the assignment, "we put a lot of 'efenders' on him. No 'D.'"
UK got another huge effort from sophomore Patrick Patterson, who's 27 points and 14 rebounds represented his eighth double-double this year.
Gillispie saluted freshman walk-on Landon Slone for providing the Cats with a spark off the bench. Slone played a career-high 25 minutes, scoring 4 points. The Paintsville native is proving to be a Gillispie favorite. The coach has said on several occasions that Slone gives the Cats "pace" (one of Gillispie's buzz words).
Slone has been a tireless worker in practice. Limited by his athletic ability and size, Slone has used his basketball savvy to gain valuable playing time and the trust of his coach.
And given his Eastern Kentucky roots, Slone quickly is becoming a Rupp Arena favorite each time he enters the game.
The Wildcats continue to be one of the nation's best shot-blocking teams. UK is averaging 8.3 per game, good enough for third nationally. The Cats had seven blocks against FAU.
After putting up 46 points against Appalachian State and following up that performance with 32 points against Tennessee State, Jodie Meeks scored "only" 18 points on Saturday. Meeks had a dozen at the half, but attempted just two field goals in the second half, making both.
Gillispie said it had something to do with "what his coach told him at halftime." Gillispie explained that Meeks appeared to be "three happy" in the first half, relying more on jump shots (2-6 from three) instead of driving to the basket and scoring in transition.
Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis wasn't at a loss for words during or after the game. Jarvis, in his first season at FAU, struck up an ongoing conversation with media members (yours truly, included). Jarvis noted that his team was playing extremely well, despite being stuck in the Atlanta airport awaiting their connecting flight. Jarvis and his Owls didn't arrive in Lexington until after midnight the night before the game.
Jarvis inquired about our Christmas. He said his Christmas was wonderful, because he saw his mother, who's in her 90s. Jarvis said his mother is still very active and helps deliver food to the elderly.
During his postgame comments, Jarvis noted how good the home-court advantage is for Kentucky. His thinly veiled remarks were a reference to the officiating in Saturday's game, during which Jarvis on more than one occasion was asked to return to the coaching box. Jarvis was issued a warning late in the second half.
Jarvis and Terry Moore had words after one call. The official told Jarvis to "shut up," which sent Jarvis into orbit. Jarvis was a bit more analytical with his remarks. "Do you know what my son just told me?" Jarvis asked Moore. "He said, 'Dad, don't get one.'"
Mike Jarvis II is an assistant coach for the Owls.
Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.