- Friday, November 26 1999 -
Preseason NIT Championship (at New York, NY)
Kentucky - 51 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 11th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||6||0||3||0||2||0||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0|
Arizona - 63 (Head Coach: Lute Olson) - [Ranked 8th by AP]
Halftime Score: Arizona 29, Kentucky 25
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Maryland 61 - 58|||||Dayton 66 - 68|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Stephen John; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Ariz 63, UK 51
For 17 minutes of the 1st half, UK used its flawless defense to hold a lead. That soon changed.
Before this game began, many experts believed the NIT Championship would be won down low, in a battle of big men. Woods and Wright for Arizona and Magloire and Stone for Kentucky. But both teams' big men negated each other and it was the outstanding play of Arizona's defense and it's three wing players, Jefferson, Arenas and Gardiner, that made the difference for Arizona, as the Arizona Wildcats put a solid whippin' on Kentucky, by a final score of 63-51. It was Arizona's third straight win over Kentucky.
Kentucky, ranked 10th in the nation, was clearly over its head in this game with 9th ranked Arizona. This game showed Kentucky was not yet a legitimate top ten team (not yet, anyway) and that Arizona, is probably a legitimate top five team.
For 17-minutes of the first half, the Kentucky Wildcats played nearly flawless defense. Magloire, Stone, Prince, Camara and Knight challenged every Arizona shot. Offensively, Kentucky did not execute very well. The game opened positively enough, with an entry pass to Magloire, who drew the defense into the middle. Jamaal kicked the ball back to Camara for a soft 18 footer and Kentucky opened a lead they would have for most of the first half, leading by as much as 7 points. In the end, the last three minutes Arizona caught fire and led Kentucky at the half 29-25. The freshman guard tandem for Arizona, Arenas and Gilbert scored 20 of Arizona's 29 first half points.
Arizona struggled offensively. Lute Olsen's team had been averaging over 80 points per game but score just 19 points in the first 17 minutes of the half. When they did score, it was primarily on transition. As good as Kentucky was defensively, they allowed Arenas and Jefferson to score on trasition. In the half court, Kentucky's defense dominated Arizona for the first 17 minutes of the game. Magloire, Stone, Prince and Camara were challenging (and often blocking) everything down low, and Arizona was shooting cold from the outside.
Arizona's touted power forward was neutralized much of the first half. Michael Wright picked up his third foul with 5 minutes to play and Loren Woods picked up two fouls as well. However, Kentucky continued its ice cold shooting from the line as Nate Knight missed a pair of free throws and Magloire shot 1-3, including a fron end miss of a one and one that would have allowed UK to tie the game.
Tayshaun Prince was the lone Kentucky player who played well offensively, hitting 2 conventional three pointers and another the hard way, driving in for a layup and drawing the foul. Keith Bogans hit his first attempt, a three pointer, but followed the shot with a couple of key mistakes and Coach Tubby Smith promptly placed him back on the bench.
With three minutes left in the first half Arizona went on a mini-tear with freshman guards Gilbert Arenas and Jason Gardiner catching fire. At one point Kentucky committed three straight turnovers, enabling Arizona to turn a 20-16 deficit into a 22-20 lead.
Kentucky's stellar defense would then abandon them. In the second half, the Wildcats lost their composure and lost the game. Arizona's own defense created many Kentucky turnovers and the Cats remained cold from the field.
With UK still close at the 15:00 mark, Kentucky made three straight trips turning the ball over, resulting in 8 points for Arizona, all on transition. Magloire looked confused and frustrated offensively. Prince, Allison and Bogans tried to keep Kentucky close, but Arenas, Gardiner and Jefferson had too much firepower this half and gained confidence with each trip down the court. At the 7:00 mark, Kentucky looked tired and dispirited and Arizona looked strong and confident. With 4:50 to go Jefferson hit an uncontested layup to give Arizona its largest lead 54-39.
In the end, it was Arizona's defense, along with the hot hands of Jefferson, Gardiner and Arenas, that made the difference for Lute Olsen's club. Arizona's highly regarded big men, Woods and Wright, were not a factor.
With 2:30 left in the ganme, Kentucky tried gamely to work its way back into the game. Saul hit a couple of shots and the defense turned up the heat, but it was too little too late.
Saul Smith (#11) defends against Arizona's Jason Gardner (#22)