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Liggins’ defense most crucial aspect to Kentucky’s weekend


Guys like Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, Shelvin Mack and Joey Rodriguez will get most of the attention during the Final Four they’re the scorers and playmakers for their teams.

But if there’s one guy who could drastically affect the outcomes of the Final Four without scoring, it’s Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior will draw the nasty assignment of guarding UConn’s Walker, the most explosive player left in the tournament. Through four tournament games, Walker’s averaging 26.5 points and is doing it efficiently while playing a ton of minutes.

It’s the most crucial player matchup of the weekend and a formidable task. Liggins knows it, too.

“He’s going to score points,” Liggins told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “But I’m going to try to make him work for everything he puts up.”

Thing is, Liggins is motivated for this assignment in a big way. Walker burned the Wildcats for 29 points (on 10 of 17 shots) and six assists in an 84-67 win during the Maui Invitational back in November, the second-highest point total against UK this season.

After the SEC tournament, Liggins talked about wanting a second-chance against Walker, but now that it’s here, he’s toned down the rhetoric.

“Kemba Walker is a great player,” he told the paper. “He scores in bunches. I just want to do a better job on him.”

The plan is for Liggins to use his larger frame and long arms to pester Walker and keep him out of the lane. Kentucky wants the ultra-quick guard shooting jump shots, not getting to the rim. If Liggins needs lots of help defense on Walker, it’ll open up scoring chances for sweet-shooting Jeremy Lamb on the wing – and that’s just as bad as letting Walker get to the rim.

That’s Liggins’ task – turn Walker into a jump shooter. That happens, the Wildcats are probably playing for the title on Monday night.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.