March 9, 2012

Point guard off to slow start in SEC Tournament

NEW ORLEANS -- If it wasn't his worst game of the season, then Marquis Teague doesn't know what was.

Kentucky's freshman point guard sat in his locker after the Wildcats' (31-1, 16-0 Southeastern Conference) 60-51 win over LSU (18-14, 7-9 SEC) in the SEC Tournament on Friday. He tried to remember a game in which he had struggled more than he had against the Tigers.

"I've had some bad ones," he said. "But this is the roughest one I could think of in a while."

Teague finished with two points, five assists and four turnovers in the win. He went 0-5 from the field and with no rebounds and one steal in 34 minutes. There were missed layups, sloppy passes and loose balls.

He was optimistic after the game even though he couldn't establish what had caused his struggles. Friday was the first time all season Teague failed to score a field goal. He had only two SEC games this season with more than four turnovers.

"They were physical and we were getting bumped and we couldn't hold on to balls," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "It just got too physical for our guys."

Teague wasn't the only Wildcat to struggle. LSU attacked the Wildcats early, jumping out to a quick lead before finally falling behind for good with just over 14 minutes to go in the game.

Kentucky had 18 turnovers in the win, the most since it had 19 in a 73-51 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, his counterpart, LSU freshman Anthony Hickey, had 10 points, five steals and four assists with one turnover. Hickey, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball, twice ignited the veteran Tigers with back-to-back layups after generating turnovers.

Hickey was LSU's only freshman starter, an advantage the Tigers took advantage of early.

"We never played in the SEC tournament," Teague said. "Something different for us. They came out more physical than us, more aggressive. They were playing for their lives. In a tournament like this, you kind of need to play for your life too."

Calipari knelt to speak to Teague in the second half when the point guard spent some time on the bench. Calipari reassured him that he'd bounce back tomorrow and that it wasn't strange for him to struggle in his first SEC tournament game.

After the way UK started on Friday, Teague was hoping for things to get better. Teague said he "struggled all around."

"They were aggressive with us," Teague said. "Getting in us, making us throw silly passes, knocking the ball out of our hands, stuff like that. They played really well tonight. One of the best games they've played that I've seen this year."

Teague took solace in the team's victory. It wasn't the first time he's struggled this season, but he hopes it could be the last. It's not unusual for Calipari's freshman point guards to struggle, though Teague had hoped the most trying times were behind him.

Calipari hasn't lost faith in him. He saw one bad game, with a chance at redemption tomorrow.

"I grabbed Marquis Teague right after the game, he and I by ourselves," Calipari said. "And I said 'Look, I got all the faith in you in the world. You keep them honest, shooting jumpers. So if they're not playing you and you want to let it go, you let it go. And then if you don't want to play that way, then you cut to the rim."

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