Willis knows importance of defense to UK’s success


Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

For a player known for his scoring and shooting, Derek Willis certainly understands the importance of defense if Kentucky wants to finish the season playing well.

“It was weird because we were playing so good defensively (earlier in the season) and maybe we started working on offense and doing a couple other things, different actions and just kinda got away from defense,” Willis said after Tuesday’s win over Georgia.

“We were playing alright offensively, and now we’re back into it again, doing defensive work I would say every bit of 45 (minutes) to an hour a day now. I mean, it’s just helped us. Tonight shows.”

Georgia actually missed 21 straight shots and went almost 18 minutes without a field goal.

“Sometimes teams come into Rupp and they just can’t – the goal is like that (small). Sometimes it’s huge and the guy goes for 40. It’s just how it is. Tonight, I think our defense – we’ve been focusing on – has just helped us. It just showed,” Willis said after Tuesday’s game.

He says while making shots can be contagious, so can good defense.

“I mean one guy starts bringing energy and it’s like it’s just going downhill, everybody else is going to come with it, and if you don’t then Coach is probably going to take you out because once you hit that level you don’t want it to stop. You want it to keep going and going. It’s just how it is,” Willis said.

Willis knows his defense has improved as he has played more. He knows it also has to get even better, especially with Alex Poythress out again with a knee injury.

“I’m still not really where I want to be. I try not to be complacent. I’m still kind of disappointed. Last game (against Florida) I was especially disappointed with how I played. But it’s just things you work on day to day. I know I have the skill set and stuff, the tools to do it. It’ll happen,” Willis said.

“We have improved on defense. I give credit to everyone on that, and the coaching staff, of course. Then again, Georgia is a team that has more turnovers than they do assists anyway so they were a turnover prone team and we just were trying to key on that, pressure their guys and the statistics show they’re probably going to turn it over more than they’re going to make a play.”

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