- Saturday, January 18 2003 -
Notre Dame - 73 (Head Coach: Mike Brey) - [Ranked 10th by AP]
Kentucky - 88 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 16th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 38, Notre Dame 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt 74 - 52|||||Auburn 67 - 51|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats drill Irish, win seventh straight
Whatever Tubby Smith said to Chuck Hayes at halftime of the Vanderbilt game earlier this week, it lit a fire under the sophomore.
Hayes followed up a sensational second half in Nashville with a career game, going for 17 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three blocks to lead Kentucky past Notre Dame 88-73 at Rupp Arena.
UK (13-3, 3-0 SEC) led for all but 33 seconds of the game to beat the Irish for the third consecutive season. Notre Dame, which was ranked ahead of UK at No. 10, couldn't catch up after falling behind by as many as 15 in the first half.
"We ran into a heck of a basketball team," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. "I watched the second half of the Vanderbilt game live and I think they found their identity."
UK held the Irish to 34.4 percent shooting from the field, the Irish's second-lowest mark of the year. If not for hitting 19-of-21 free throws in the second half, the final score would have been much worse than the 15-point cushion.
"On defense, guys are starting to raise their level of play," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "If you play good defense, you can create offense."
The Cats also bottled up Irish point guard Chris Thomas, holding him to 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting. Thomas, who now has made just 8-of-32 shots in two seasons against UK, also turned the ball over nine times as the Cats wore him down in his 39 minutes.
"The main thing was to try and make him do things he isn't comfortable doing," junior Gerald Fitch said. "We were always pressuring him because me and Cliff kept subbing for each other. He took some bad shots and started thinking he was getting fouled."
Brey said the defense on Thomas was critical, but UK's interior play was the difference. The Cats' frontline of Marquis Estill, Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels combined for 50 points, 30 rebounds, 11 assists and seven blocks. When the Irish started to come back early in the second half, the Cats went right to Estill, who finished with 18 points.
"We worried about Estill the most, but the whole frontline made plays on us," Brey said. "They are a very unselfish group of big guys with great basketball feel."
Smith said UK knew it had to attack Notre Dame's inexperienced post players. The move worked to perfection, as UK outscored the Irish 54-20 in the paint.
"We figured if we could isolate against them, we had an advantage," Smith said.
Of course, Hayes going for a monster game made life much easier for the Cats, who may be the quietest 13-3 team in the nation. Hayes said he needed Smith's benching to start the second half against Vanderbilt.
"Coach needed to sit me down," Hayes said. "It didn't surprise me. It was a message to me, 'Chuck, you've got to get your act straight.'"
Hayes did just that and the Cats may finally be hitting their stride.
"We are not worried about what people think," senior Keith Bogans said. "We are just trying to put it to people. This is the first time we've finished a game the right way."
In addition to Hayes and Estill's games, Erik Daniels had 15 points and six rebounds, while Cliff Hawkins added six points and five assists. Matt Carroll led Notre Dame with 29 points (10-of-10 free throws).
Cliff Hawkins challenges Notre Dame's Chris Thomas
Chuck Hayes (#44) blocks the shot of Notre Dame's Torin Francis (#34)