- Tuesday, January 20 2004 -
Kentucky - 69 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 9th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
Tennessee - 68 (Head Coach: Buzz Peterson) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 41, Tennessee 28
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Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats win another thriller in OT, 69-68
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Kentucky basketball kingdom had been alive with talk of Cliff Hawkins' extended stretch of mediocre play for several weeks, but the senior emphatically answered his critics at a crucial time.
Hawkins drilled a long three-pointer from the top of the key with 16.3 seconds left in regulation to give pull UK into a tie after the Cats had lost all of a 15-point second half lead to Tennessee.
Once the game stretched into overtime, UK (12-2, 3-1) scored the final points of the extra session on a Chuck Hayes tip of his own miss with 3:50 left as the Cats held on for a 69-68 victory before 17,990 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"This was crucial," Hayes said. "We needed this bad, needed it in the worst way. Cliff hit a big shot. He's a senior. It was huge and we were able to prevail."
Hawkins' shot got the Cats into overtime, where UK quickly fell behind 66-64 on Scooter McFadgon's baseline jumper. Erik Daniels then offered an unlikely lift, swishing a three-pointer from the top of the key with 4:25 left to give UK a 67-66 lead. Daniels, who scored 19 points, had made just 2-of-11 from three-point range all season before hitting the critical jumper.
Tennessee (10-4, 2-3) reclaimed the lead one final time at 4:03 when McFadgon capped his 33-point night with two free throws, making him 13-of-13 from the line for the game. But UK answered once again when Hayes recovered after missing an uncontested lay-in and tipped in his own miss for the 69-68 lead.
"I should have made it the first time," Hayes said. "But I was able to get a hand on it before anyone else."
The Cats had several chances to put the game away in overtime, but missed five more three-pointers on a night when they made just 3-of-24 from beyond the arc. On Tennessee's final possession, McFadgon spun left in the lane, but was stripped by Gerald Fitch with 8.8 seconds left.
The Vols inbounded the ball, and freshman guard Dane Bradshaw also tried to spin in the lane, but failed to get the ball to the rim under heavy pressure by UK. Hayes rebounded the miss and cleared the outlet to Kelenna Azubuike as time expired.
"Our kids showed a lot of heart," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "It's exciting to get this win and overcome a lot of obstacles."
Smith was noticeably unhappy about the officiating for much of the game, as UK was whistled for 30 fouls to just 19 for the Vols. The differential was even greater in the second half were UT was 20-of-21 from the line and UK just 4-of-6 while the margin was 17-5 in favor of Tennessee.
The closely called game allowed Tennessee to chip away at a 45-30 UK lead, finally taking the lead for the first time at 52-51 with 7:37 left and capping a 24-6 spurt to make it 54-51. UK answered by reclaiming the lead 61-58 with 3:53 left, but missed several chances to extend the lead.
Tennessee looked to have the game won when Fitch, who suffered through a 1-of-13 shooting night, threw the ball away after being caught in the air and UT's C.J. Watson hit his only shot of the night with a breakaway lay-up to make it 62-61 Vols at 55.3 remaining. Watson added two free throws at 22.2 before Hawkins hit his game-tying shot.
"I jumped up and made a big shot," Hawkins said. "I had a clean look. I told myself if I get an open look, I'm going to knock it down. It felt good. I think I even hollered, ‘Good!'
"I've been struggling of late. What better time to forget (that) then if I can jump up and hit that three."
McFadgon missed a pull-up jumper as the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime, where UK eventually won.
Hayes led UK with 18 points and 16 rebounds, while Hawkins added 13 points and six assists. Adding to McFadgon's total was Brandon Crump with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
C.J. Watson drives against Kelenna Azubuike
Cliff Hawkins (#1) goes up to block Jemere Hendrix
Chuck Hayes (#44) defends against a drive by Dane Bradshaw (#23)