- Monday, November 21 2005 -
Guardians Classic (at Kansas City, MO)
Kentucky - 63 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 7th by AP and 7th by ESPN/USA Today]
Iowa - 67 (Head Coach: Steve Alford) - [Ranked 18th by AP and 17th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Iowa 34, Kentucky 31
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Lipscomb 67 - 49|||||West Virginia 80 - 66|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats' Composure MIA
KANSAS CITY Ð When Kentucky finished off two lackluster victories at home to advance to the Guardians Classic final four it knew the competition would get much tougher and provide a truer test of where the Cats stand.
If UK's 67-63 loss to Iowa in the semifinals is any indication, this edition of the Cats have a long way to go to find the intangibles that has allowed them to pull out close victories over the past few seasons. The Cats turned the ball over three times in the final two minutes Ð including two by Ramel Bradley Ð and repeatedly missed point blank opportunities at the rim down the stretch, as Iowa's toughness reigned.
"We had so many opportunities," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "It was amazing, just an unusual display of, I don't know, we lost all of our composure. We dribble off our foot, step out of bounds. Early in the season guys try to do too much."
The Cats certainly had chances down the stretch despite not playing very smart basketball throughout the game. UK made countless sloppy mistakes, were turned back at the rim by Iowa defenders on numerous occasions and, although it outrebounded the Hawkeyes, had too many second half possessions where Iowa controlled their offensive glass.
Even with all the un-Kentucky like plays on the Cats' part, they still sat in prime position to sneak past the Hawkeyes, who have a earned quite a reputation for November upsets. After taking a 56-55 lead with 4:28 remaining, UK's Rekalin Sims fouled Greg Brunner, who made one free throw, but missed the second only to see Adam Haluska go over UK's Sheray Thomas for an offensive board. Thomas compounded the mistake by fouling Brunner as he searched for room on the baseline, giving the burly center a three-point play to put Iowa up 59-56 with just under four minutes to go.
The Cats had two point blank chances by junior forward Bobby Perry to close the gap on the next two possessions, but Perry, who finished with 12 points and three rebounds, was twice denied by Iowa center Erek Hansen.
Still, UK pulled to within 59-58 with 2:32 left on a pair of Ramel Bradley free throws, then earned a 10-second backcourt violation on Iowa with a suffocating press. Poised to take the lead, Bradley was given the keys to initiate the offense, but as he danced with the ball near the top of the key, he dribbled it off his foot and watched as Iowa's Mike Henderson dove on the loose ball and called timeout. After Henderson hit two charity tosses of his own, Perry stroked a three-pointer off a beautiful pick-and-pop with Rajon Rondo to tie the game.
UK's sticky defense Ð it held Iowa to just 38.3 percent shooting Ð came up with a stop on the ensuing possession and Sims had the rebound before losing control trying to hand off to Rondo. Rondo chased the ball down in the corner but stepped on the sideline and turned it back over to Iowa with 44.7 seconds left. Iowa responded with one free throw from Haluska, giving UK a chance to take the lead yet again.
The Cats drew up a perfectly executed play, with Bradley driving down the right side of the lane and flicking a perfect pass to a cutting Perry. Perry went up uncontested in the lane, but elected to finger roll the shot instead of dunking and watched it spin off.
"That's a shot I have to make," Perry said. "I'm struggling right now. I probably should have dunked the ball, but I can't take it back now. I don't know if it's a mind thing or what, but I've got to get in my head to go up stronger."
Smith didn't argue that point.
"Bobby has struggled to finish," Smith said. "That's been a problem since he got here. I don't know what to do except continue to work on it."
UK had one final chance down 64-61 with 25 seconds left and once again let Bradley try to break his man Ð freshman Tony Freeman Ð down one-on-one. Instead, Bradley rose up for the potential tying three, but Freeman stripped Bradley clean and recovered the steal to end UK's hopes. The loss was especially maddening for Smith, who has always prided himself on having mentally tough teams, especially at crunch time.
"It's a toughness thing, a toughness we are lacking," Smith said. "That's how you get beat. We aren't playing smart. We aren't doing the little things at all.
"We've always been a team this is very tough-minded. Our M.O. right now is that we want to be tough, physical and smart, but we are none of those right now. We have to make better decisions. We have to play with poise and patience."
Iowa's Greg Bruner scores over Sheray Thomas (#23)
Bruner and UK's Rekalin Sims battle for a rebound