- Saturday, December 2 2000 -
Kentucky - 93 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
|J. P. Blevins||5||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||0|
North Carolina - 76 (Head Coach: Matt Doherty) - [Ranked 6th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 38, North Carolina 35
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Penn State 68 - 73|||||Eastern Kentucky 94 - 79|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Bench Sparks UK
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Marquis Estill recorded his first career double-double and Cliff Hawkins ignited Kentucky with his fiery point guard play as the struggling Wildcats broke out of their early season blues with a vengeance Saturday at North Carolina.
Estill and Hawkins led an impressive showing by Kentucky's bench, who outscored their North Carolina counterparts 38-12 en route to a 93-76 rout of the No. 6 Tar Heels in a matchup of the winningest programs in college basketball history.
"I thought Cliff and Marquis gave us a big lift, as well as Erik Daniels off the bench," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We play team basketball. We expect everyone to step up. These guys are starting to mature and starting to gain some valuable experience."
Estill, a sophomore forward, scored 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and blocked four shots to lead Kentucky (2-3).
But while Estill proved to be the driving force behind the Cats' impressive showing, Hawkins was the catalyst. The freshman point guard was instrumental in bringing the Cats back from a 10-point deficit in the first half with his spirited play. He finished the game with 11 points, five assists and only one turnover in a thoroughly productive 18 minutes of action.
"Cliff, because he could penetrate, found a lot of gaps in their zone," Smith said. "He was the key. He broke them down with his penetration and energy.
"We knew that coming in, and if we could get inside with either dribble penetration or passing the ball, they were vulnerable to that. Cliff is one of the best penetrators in the country, and he did a good job."
The Cats fell behind 7-0 and trailed by a 21-11 margin with 10 minutes left in the first half before the UK reserves led the comeback. Estill, Hawkins and Daniels, a freshman forward, combined for 13 points in an 18-4 run that saw Kentucky take a 29-25 advantage with 3:20 left in the half.
"Through it all, we stayed positive," Smith said of the early deficit. "I think that was a big key."
Kentucky took a 38-35 lead into the locker room at halftime on a putback by Estill with one second left. It marked one of seven offensive rebounds for the 6-foot-9 power forward, who was matched up on many occasions with North Carolina's 7-foot Brendan Haywood. Jason Capel's 10 points paced the Heels in the first stanza.
North Carolina reclaimed the lead in the early going of the second half with the help of five straight points by Haywood, a putback by Capel, and a dunk by Haywood to put the Heels ahead 48-45.
But Kentucky responded with its second major run of the game, this time a 20-4 spurt sparked by Tayshaun Prince. The junior forward was held scoreless in the first half, but sank a 3-pointer and scored on a jump hook in the lane to get the Cats rolling again.
Keith Bogans and Saul Smith also loomed large in the decisive run, each hitting a pair of 3-pointers. The Cats, who have struggled to hit consistently from the perimeter in their 1-3 start, were 9-of-26 against North Carolina. Smith's second trey put the Cats up 70-58 with 7:03 remaining. The Heels would get no closer than nine the rest of the way as Kentucky hit 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch.
"We made some big plays. That's what we've talked about, being tough," Smith said. "We showed some toughness inside, we battled them on the boards, and we outrebounded them in the second half."
The Cats' biggest lead came on a Prince free throw at the 1:18 mark, much to the dismay of the Dean Smith Center crowd of 21,750. Only a pair of late 3-pointers by Joseph Forte spared the Heels, who were 72-4 at home in non-conference play, from their worst loss in the "Dean Dome".
"We had some meetings. I stepped up and said this 1-3 record is not the way we play here at UK," Saul Smith said. "We looked at this as a pivotal game in our season because we want to go into games knowing we can compete in opponents' gyms."
North Carolina (3-2) was led by Forte with 19 points and Haywood with 18. But Forte, the sophomore All-American candidate, had a poor shooting night (8 of 22) in his matchup with former high school teammate Bogans. Kentucky's sophomore guard finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
"The key there was keeping him off the free throw line," Smith said of Forte. "He gets up 22 shots, but he didn't get to the line, so that was important."
"Coach (Matt) Doherty has a lot of pride and he puts a lot into the team emotionally and physically, and for us to go out there and lose like that is embarrassing to him and the team," Forte said. "We feel it with him."
"I just want to apologize to the fans and the students," Doherty said. "I thought the atmosphere was great. The fans did their part, we didn't do ours."
"I know they've got a very good team, but we were on our game today," Smith said.
Kentucky returns to action Tuesday at Rupp Arena against Eastern Kentucky as former UK guard Travis Ford brings the Colonels to Lexington.