- Saturday, January 13 2007 -
Mississippi State - 60 (Head Coach: Rick Stansbury) - [Unranked]
|Reginald Delk (*)||24||3||8||2||5||0||1||0||2||2||1||1||0||0||2||8|
|Richard Delk (*)||27||3||5||1||2||0||0||1||0||1||2||3||1||1||1||7|
Kentucky - 64 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 27, Mississippi State 26
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Auburn 84 - 57|||||South Carolina 87 - 49|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Morris saves Cats in closing minute
Randolph Morris spent much of his evening looking beaten down, literally and figuratively, but when Kentucky needed its star to shine brightest Morris came to life and delivered the way clutch performers so often do.
Morris converted a lay-in off a Joe Crawford feed with 58.9 seconds remaining to give the Cats the lead for good and then blocked Jamont Gordon's potential game-tying drive in the final 10 seconds to rescue UK in a 64-60 victory at Rupp Arena.
Morris scored 11 of his 17 points and made seven-of-eight free throws in the second half to erase what was shaping up to be one of his least impressive games of the year. Ramel Bradley, the Southeastern Conference's leading free throw shooter, also hit three-of-four charity tosses in the final 10 seconds to keep State at bay. The victory was UK's 10th straight and pushed the Cats to a perfect 3-0 start in conference play, keeping up with rival Florida.
But this one was about Morris. The player UK leans most heavily on proved his broad shoulders could handle the load.
"He came through for us," Bradley said of his big fella. "I kept telling him, 'It's clutch time. You're our guy. Get it done.' He came through.
"I've got to take my hat off to him because he carried us down the stretch. He got some clutch blocks and that's what we needed."
Morris' late heroics erased what had been a forgettable night to that point. The junior center missed three short jumpers in the first five minutes and looked out of sync throughout. He took an elbow to the left eyebrow with eight minutes to go in the half, received four stitches at halftime and then immediately struggled again out of the break.
Sensing a cold-shooting UK might be ripe for an upset the Bulldogs hung around and eventually took a 53-50 lead with 5:24 left when Reginald Delk Ð the nephew of former UK great Tony Delk Ð swished a wide open three from the corner. That's when Morris and freshman guard Derrick Jasper began their stretch of critical plays.
Morris batted a State entry pass out to Jasper, who raced the length of the court and earned an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the score at 53. After the final media timeout of the game Jasper fed Morris for a lay-in to give the Cats the lead and then blocked a Gordon drive. Moments later Morris connected on two free throws to put the Cats up 57-53 with 2:41 remaining.
State would not go away though. Gordon spun in the lane for a lay-up and then Rhodes followed his own miss to tie the game at 57 with 85 seconds on the clock. The Cats responded when Crawford drove baseline, drawing two defenders, and dropped a pass to Morris, whose bucket gave UK the lead for good. Morris tied up Gordon on a drive on State's ensuing possession, added two more free throws and then blocked Gordon with the Cats clinging to a 62-60 lead in the waning seconds.
"I showed a little bit of fortitude," Morris said. "I finally came to the realization that I was not playing well as I had to for us to win. Personally, I wasn't doing anything so I had to do whatever I could."
Morris' teammates noticed the gut check from their big man.
"It was a tough game for everyone but to respond the way he did, that's a sign of maturity," senior forward Bobby Perry said. "He put this team on his back and would not let us lose. Randolph has done a hell of a job this year allowing us to lean on him."
While Morris' name was stamped all over the final minutes of the game there were plenty of other hands in the triumph. Jasper had eight points, eight rebounds and four steals and showed the poise of a veteran down the stretch. Bradley shook off a poor shooting night to hit those three free throws in the closing seconds. Crawford belied his reputation as an out of control driver on the assist to Morris and then went flying over courtside seats to save the ball on Morris' final block. Sheray Thomas blocked a key shot in the final minutes as well.
"Everything is a little easier when you're winning," Crawford said. "You know how to win. We know what plays to make. Last year we were so worried about losing at the end of games. Now we know we can win and aren't scared of losing."
Nor should they be with Morris on their side.
Randolph Morris makes a move
Joe Crawford with a game save
Jodie Meeks tries to shoot over the long arms of Richard Delk