- Saturday, December 30 2006 -
Rescheduled from 29-DEC due to football bowl game
Eastern Kentucky - 65 (Head Coach: Jeff Neubauer) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 78 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, Eastern Kentucky 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Massachusetts 82 - 68|||||Houston 77 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Holiday Hangover: UK pushes past EKU
Having spent eight days away from the basketball court Kentucky was concerned about how much luster it lost during the Christmas break. Ramel Bradley made sure the first game back wouldn't tarnish what the Cats have got going.
Although there was certainly a holiday malaise, the Cats made just enough plays to push past Eastern Kentucky 78-65 in front of 23,528 fans at Rupp Arena. Bradley, who serves as the Cats' emotional leader and resident fire starter, exploded in the second half on both ends of the court to make sure New Year's would be as pleasant as Christmas.
"Ramel had an excellent game," senior forward Bobby Perry said. "I tip my hat to him. He showed his heart and hustle in this game. He took every opportunity and capitalized. He knocked down some huge threes.
"I thought the first half we had to shake the cobwebs off. Ramel is just the guy to do that. He shook us out of it."
The Cats getaway game against Massachusetts was arguably their most complete of the season but the time off to go home and visit family and friends proved difficult to shake. UK (11-3) trailed for stretches of the first half and failed to completely shake the Colonels until Bradley swished a three-pointer with 3:31 remaining to give UK a 71-62 advantage.
In between Bradley and Randolph Morris made sure the Cats wouldn't let one get away. Bradley scored 16 of his 20 points after halftime, including four cold-blooded three-pointers that were immediate answers to triples on the other end of the floor by the Colonels.
"We need Ramel Bradley to miss a couple of those threes to have a chance in this building," Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer said.
With Bradley dialing it up from long range, diving on the floor for loose balls and producing five steals, Morris gained more freedom in the post. Trapped repeatedly in the first 20 minutes, Morris found more room in the second half and finished with a career-high tying 25 points and 10 rebounds. It was his fourth double-double of the season and quietly one of his better all-around efforts.
Even with Morris' continued excellence this victory was about Bradley. The loquacious junior from New York City began the season as the Cats' point guard but was shifted to the '2' spot after eight inconsistent games. Since that time Bradley has averaged 16 points a game, shot 50 percent from long range and produced 23 assists to just 15 turnovers. He added defense to his expanding repertoire against EKU, shutting down point guard Adam Leonard the final 14 minutes after he had connected on his first six three-pointers.
"Coach (David) Hobbs asked him if he could handle him and he said yes," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "He really rises to the challenge. He's been playing well and he's focused in. He's the kind of guy that when we need effort he gives us special effort. Guys feed off that because he is a real vocal and energetic leader."
"In these games you have to be gritty, you have to make the hustle plays," Bradley said.
The Cats' victory was the sixth straight, the longest such streak since winning nine in a row from Jan. 12 to Feb. 12, 2005. It also seems to signify a new confidence in this group as they prepare to enter Southeastern Conference play.
"We're extremely confident and have every reason to be," Morris said.
Even when it takes a little longer to get the juices going, but that's where Bradley comes in.
Derrick Jasper scores on a reverse layup
Joe Crawford drives