While he’s relied on his prized freshmen for a bulk of the scoring, Kentucky coach John Calipari probably wouldn’t mind if junior guard DeAndre Liggins continues to contribute.
Following a career-best scoring performance, Liggins will try to keep helping the 17th-ranked Wildcats on Saturday night against visiting Mississippi Valley State.
Calipari’s top three scorers this season are all first-year players with Terrence Jones’ 18.9 points per game leading the way. Liggins has chipped in with an average of 9.9 but played a big part in Kentucky’s latest win.
He scored a career-high 19 points as the Wildcats pulled away for an 81-62 win over rival Indiana last Saturday. He also got back to his usual role as the player who dives on the floor and gives Kentucky a boost on defense.
“(Calipari) told me I’m not coming up with loose balls like I did last year. It’s funny because I was thinking the same thing,” Liggins said. “I’ve just got to get back to what I was doing last year and add to my list scoring ability, and I’ll be fine.”
Even if Liggins can’t match his previous effort, the Wildcats (7-2) should have more than enough to beat the Delta Devils (1-8), one of the nation’s worst defensive teams.
Mississippi Valley is giving up 80.3 points per game and has allowed an average of 93.0 during a three-game slide. Following a 101-69 defeat at Mississippi on Monday, the Delta Devils fell 87-64 to another SEC school, Arkansas, two days later.
Mississippi Valley trailed by five at halftime before getting outscored 44-26 over the final 20 minutes. Junior guard Terrance Joyner, averaging a team-best 10.8 points, was one of three players to score 10.
Mississippi Valley, averaging 61.0 points, is in the midst of playing its first 13 games away from home before hosting Alabama A&M on Jan. 8.
Like Liggins, Kentucky’s lone senior, forward Josh Harrellson, is coming off one of his best performances of the season. Harrellson had his third career double-double and second in four games with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Indiana.
He’s averaging 5.4 points and 9.0 rebounds, second-most on the Wildcats behind Jones’ 10.2 per game.
“Josh can be whatever he wants to be,” Calipari said. “He can paint his own canvas. He can do whatever he wants. He’s in better shape. We play an offense that’s perfect for him.”
Harrellson had three points and Liggins scored 10 off the bench in an 88-65 win over Mississippi Valley on Dec. 7, 2008. The Wildcats won 79-56 in the inaugural meeting between the schools Nov. 17, 2006.
Kentucky is searching for its 23rd consecutive home win.