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Bledsoe: “If we make 3’s, nobody can touch us”

Eric Bledsoe lets a shot go against Tennessee Saturday. (Victoria Graff photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When opponents focus on stopping DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson inside, Eric Bledsoe knows his job is simple — make 3-point shots.

He did here Saturday, too, as he went 5-for-8 from 3-point range and had 17 points in a 74-45 victory over Tennessee that puts Kentucky into Sunday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game.

“If we make 3’s, I don’t think nobody can touch us,” said Bledsoe. “We’ve got to make shots. Today I got in a groove. I was shooting shots and they were just going in.

“When they focus on DeMarcus and Patrick, that leaves openings for me and John (Wall) to penetrate and get everybody else open shots. Coach (John Calipari) told us, me and John, we’re the leaders. If we make the shots, that gets everybody else confident. He always tells me, ‘Don’t give up on your shot.’ Even though I went 1-for-30, he just said, ‘Keep shooting the ball.’ And that’s what I did, and it paid off.”

Bledsoe was expecting a physical contest — and got one.

“We knew it would be a brawl,” Bledsoe, who also had four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 33 minutes of play, said. “But when we made shots, it took a lot out of them.”

Calipari said Bledsoe’s play often indicates what kind of success UK will have.

“When Eric plays like unbelievably intense and aggressive, I know we’re in good shape. When he backs up a little bit, I’m a little worried. Then somebody else better steps up and play,” Calipari said. “When he plays, I know we’re fine.

“Today I told him before we got on the bus, I said, “Look, I want you to go crazy from the beginning of the game. You get on (Bobby) Maze, make him go left and go nuts. When you need a break, take yourself out. You take yourself out and then put yourself back in the game. We want you to go. If you miss a shot and it gets to you mentally, take yourself out and then go back in.’”

Maze often drove by Bledsoe in Tennessee’s win over UK in Knoxville last month, but he was only 1-for-8 from the field Saturday and had just three points in 26 minutes. Overall, Tennessee was only 17-for-55 from the field — a 30.9 percent mark.

“Last time they outplayed us,” Bledsoe said. “They got all the loose balls and went by us. Today our mindset was not to let that happen. They are good, but not good enough to beat us if we play hard and today we did that. We just really wanted to win and get to that title game.”

Calipari said Bledsoe’s play is often not appreciated enough by others.

“ He is a competitor. He’s a battler. I’ve won with guys like him. People say he’s undersized. Let me tell you, he puts his head on the rim, and he makes big shots. He has all year for us. He’s made big free throws for us all year,” Calipari said.

“ When we beat Tennessee at home, he did the same thing at home. He made the shots that beat them in our building. No one else made a shot. His shots were the only ones that went down.”

That could help more shots go down, too.

“When you hit five 3-pointers in a game, it just gives you confidence that you can make even more,” Bledsoe said. “I wish we could go play again right now.”

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9 comments

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  1. Karen Sprinkle

    I loved Eric’s play today–he was not only making shots, he was playing good defense.

  2. Mike

    He was a stud. Let’s hope he repeats tomorrow.

  3. Jim Boyers

    An excellent performance by Eric, but an even better TEAM performance!!

    GO BIG BLUE!!!!

  4. LindaS

    Eric, get to bed early and make sure all your team mates are asleep early too, you need your rest. GO CATS! 31-2

  5. Mike

    I still can’t believe Coach Cal earlier said that winning the SEC tourney wasn’t important to him. He may never live that down but did have a change of heart apparently. Ah Cal…it is very important to us.

  6. KY_Wildcat_AL

    set clocks AHEAD one hour tonite… or you may miss the first half!

  7. Dennis

    ATTA BOY Eric. Very nice game kidd. Keep that confidence you found tonight. We need THIS Eric Bledsoe for our NCAA Title run. Rick Stansbury and his guys are playing their best ball of the year right now. Bring it Sunday like you guys brought Saturday and NOBODY can beat us. GO CATS!

  8. gmoyers

    It was huge game for Bledsoe, who i think is the key for Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament

  9. Wheatgerm

    Did you notice? Eric was set and ready to shoot when the passes came to him. He had his feet underneath him, went straight up and shot with rhythm. In prior games, he was shooting on the move and quickly, often floating to his side. What a difference!

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