The Kentucky basketball players returned
to the locker room after pregame warmups Sunday thinking they were
just changing shoes. When they got there, each locker was donned
with a new black uniform, and their names on the back were replaced
with the name "Keightley."
Wearing the new duds as a tribute to longtime equipment manager
Bill Keightley, who died of a brain tumor earlier this year, the
Wildcats cruised to an 88-65 victory over Mississippi Valley State.
Afterward, several players began lobbying to wear them more often.
"When we saw them, our jaws just dropped," center Patrick
Patterson said. "We just really wanted to show them off."
Who knows whether it was the clothing or just lesser
competition, but this Kentucky team hardly resembled the ice-cold
shooters that lost to No. 21 Miami less than 24 hours earlier.
Kentucky (6-3) made 54 percent of its shots and held the Delta
Devils (0-10) to 34 percent.
Nobody had more of a resurgence than Jodie Meeks, who missed 10
of 12 3-point attempts Saturday in Kentucky's loss, but led the
Wildcats Sunday with 24 points - half of them from beyond the arc.
"He took it really hard yesterday," guard Kevin Galloway said
of Meeks. "But, he bounced back and was really focused on trying
to do other things."
Meeks had plenty of help, as Patterson recorded his sixth
double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and 14
Wildcats saw action for Billy Gillispie.
"We started to recognize a few things better, like
understanding where our best player is and try to get him the ball
a little bit more," Gillispie said.
During one play in the second half, freshman DeAndre Liggins - a
fan favorite to become the team's starting point guard - hit
Patterson with a crisp pass through several defenders, setting up
the easy bucket.
Liggins led the team with five assists to go along with his 10
Kentucky led 42-36 with 18 minutes left after a 3-pointer by
MVSU's Shannon Behling, but then the Wildcats went on a 17-1 run to
erase any doubt.
"They get kind of starry-eyed and still don't believe in
themselves," said MVSU coach Sean Woods, a Kentucky alumnus. "We
still have a mentality of, 'When's the giant going to make their
Although a blowout over the winless Delta Devils wasn't a huge
surprise, the way in which Kentucky dismantled the lesser
competition helped lighten the blow from a cold-shooting loss the
In that game, the Wildcats made only 2 of 25 attempts from
3-point range. They topped that total in the first five minutes of
this one en route to a 7-for-18 performance from beyond the arc.
Despite the sluggish start, Behling remained confident of his
"I predict that we will win our conference," he said. "We
need to start winning these out-of-conference games."
At halftime, a Keightley uniform bearing the number 48 -
representing the 48 years the man affectionately known as "Mr.
Wildcat" spent on the Kentucky bench - was lifted to the Rupp
"There's never enough you could do for him," Gillispie said.
"What a great person he was. He's sorely missed."
The winless Delta Devils were a pesky opponent to the far more
physical Wildcats throughout the first half. A 3-pointer by Behling
pulled the Delta Devils to within 30-28 with three minutes to go
before halftime. Behling led the Delta Devils with 20 points and 7
Kentucky quickly padded the lead by scoring the next nine
points, seven by Meeks within the span of 30 seconds. After sinking
two free throws, Meeks scored from the lane off a steal, then hit
his second 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up by 11.
Another 3-pointer by Behling with seconds to go in the first
half cut Kentucky's lead to 39-31 at the break.
Playing for the second time in 24 hours, this time against an
outmatched opponent, coach Billy Gillispie was able to divvy up the
Galloway made the first start of his Kentucky career, and
freshman Landon Slone saw his first significant playing time and
first points - two 3-pointers in the first half. He also passed up
a wide-open 3-pointer, drawing boos from the Rupp crowd, and missed
"Once you start feeling it, if you're open, you shoot it,"