- Thursday, March 15 2001 -
NCAA East Regional First Round (at Uniondale, NY)
Kentucky - 72 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Final Rank 9th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||13||1||3||1||3||2||2||1||0||1||0||0||1||0||1||5|
Holy Cross - 68 (Head Coach: Ralph Willard) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 36, Holy Cross 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi 77 - 55|||||Iowa 92 - 79|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Kentucky holds off Holy Cross 72-68 in NCAA opener
UNIONDALE, N.Y.. --- Kentucky reverted back to its early-season form, but fortunately for the Wildcats, Tayshaun Prince remained in the present. Unable to shake 15th-seeded Holy Cross its first-round game of NCAA Tournament, Kentucky turned to its All-American down the stretch, and Prince delivered with 10 of his game-high 27 points in the final 6:09 as the Cats held off the Crusaders 72-68.
Prince broke a 58-all tie with consecutive 3-pointers, and came up with another key basket at the :21.9 mark after a pesky Holy Cross squad had closed within three. His two free throws with 7.2 seconds left iced the victory for Kentucky (23-9), which advances to face seventh-seeded Iowa on Saturday at 8 p.m. The Hawkeyes advanced with a 69-56 victory over Creighton in Thursday's second game at Nassau Coliseum.
To get there, Kentucky had to work itself out of an all-too familiar situation. The Cats, who have seen large leads evaporate late in several games this season, knew who to call upon in this situation.
"Even in high school, Tayshaun had the ability to focus and take the game over," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He's been a goto guy for a long time. Tayshaun has done it for us a number of times."
"The game was tied up and it seemed like everytime we made a run, they came back at us and brought the lead back down," Prince said. "Once I hit that first 3, the next couple of trips down court, I just told Saul (Smith) to give me the basketball because I pretty much had a groove on.
"They did a great job of setting me up, giving me some screens, and I was able to use them and hit some key shots." Prince, who was named both the SEC Player of the Year and the SEC Tournament MVP, scored 12 of the Cats' final 16 points to hold of a courageous effort by the Patriot League champions.
"Ralph Willard and his staff had an excellent game plan and executed extremely well," Smith said of Holy Cross (22-8). "But I have to compliment our players when we lost our lead we didn't hang our heads and fold. We continued to stay composed and pulled the game out."
"They came out and played tough," said UK's Keith Bogans, who added 17 points. "They were a scrappy team and played like they had nothing to lose."
Kentucky led 36-27 at the half and by a 54-44 margin with 10:56 remaining before Holy Cross made things interesting with its solid defense and strong perimeter shooting. The Crusaders used a 14-4 run, including a three-point play by Juan Pegues and a pair of 3-pointers by Jared Curry to tie the game at 58 with 6:28 left. For the game, they hit 10 of 18 (56 percent) from long range, including four by Curry. The senior guard, who entered the game averaging 8.4 points, led Holy Cross with 16.
"We came to win," Curry said. "We're disappointed we lost."
Holy Cross also got 13 points from 7-footer Josh Sankes, 11 from forward Tim Szatko and 10 from point guard Ryan Serravalle. The Crusaders shot a surprising 47 percent (24 of 51) from the field, but could not overcome 19 turnovers that led to many transition scoring opportunities for the Cats, particularly early in the game.
"I told them at out pregame meal that if we did certain things, I thought we had the opportunity to win," said Willard, who coached with Smith on Rick Pitino's UK staff during the 1989-90 season. "As good as Kentucky has been playing, if we take away offensive rebounding and transition opportunities, we have a chance."
The Cats owned a 9-4 advantage in offensive rebounds despite losing the overall battle of the boards 31-27.
Kentucky shot 50 percent (29 of 58) against the No. 1 field goal percentage team in Division I. In addition to Prince and Bogans, the Cats also got 10 points from freshman center Jason Parker.
Jason Parker blocks a shot by Holy Cross' Jave Meade