- Thursday, March 22 2001 -
NCAA East Regional Semifinals (at Philadelphia, PA)
Kentucky - 76 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Final Rank 9th by AP]
|J. P. Blevins||7||0||3||0||2||0||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Southern California - 80 (Head Coach: Henry Bibby) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Southern California 43, Kentucky 24
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Iowa 92 - 79|||||Western Kentucky 52 - 64|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Jeff Drummond; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
USC upsets Kentucky in East Region semifinals
PHILADELPHIA - The city of independence and the nation will have to wait for its Duke-Kentucky regional final rematch.
Upstart Southern California saw to that Thursday, stunning second-seeded Kentucky with a 31-10 lead and holding off a furious comeback by the Wildcats for an 80-76 victory in the East Region semifinals.
The sixth-seeded Trojans (24-9) got 27 points from junior forward David Bluthenthal, who hit three timely 3-pointers late in the second half and made five straight free throws in the clutch to lead his team into the Elite Eight. USC, seeking its first Final Four berth since 1954, will face top-seeded Duke in Saturday's regional championship. The Blue Devils advanced with a 76-63 win over UCLA in last night's second game at the First Union Center.
"The last three games I've been speechless and I like being speechless," USC coach Henry Bibby said. "The kids worked hard. The kids played defense. They did exactly what we asked them to do."
Bluthenthal, who scored 20 points to lead USC's 74-71 upset of Boston College in the round of 32, hit six of eight from 3-point range and seven of eight at the line against Kentucky (24-10). None of his points were bigger than his five free throws in the final 31.2 seconds to seal the victory.
"I knew if I was going to the line," Bluthenthal said. "I was going to make those shots. It wasn't really hard to knock those free throws down."
"We have total confidence in David," Bibby said. "That's the guy we wanted to get fouled. He's an 80-percent shooter. I think it went the way we wanted."
In the early going, it was everything the Trojans wanted.
Kentucky staggered out of the blocks, looking confused against USC's matchup zone traps. The Cats made only five field goals and had as many turnovers in the first 10 minutes of play. Meanwhile, the Trojans hit 13 of their first 18 shots --- the first five by each of the different starters --- to build a nearly unthinkable 21-point lead.
"We felt we were getting open looks, but we were not hitting," said Kentucky senior point guard Saul Smith. "We dug ourselves a big hole by not doing enough on the defensive end when we needed to."
The carnage reached 43-24 by halftime, the largest intermission deficit the Cats had faced this season.
But Kentucky regrouped at halftime and blitzed the Trojans with a run of its own to open the second period. Jason Parker scored eight points in a 24-7 spurt which saw the Cats pull within 50-48 at the 12:52 mark.
USC stretched the lead to 57-48 with the help of four points by Sam Clancy in a 7-0 spurt before Kentucky again countered. This time, four straight 3-pointers --- two each by Smith and Keith Bogans --- sliced the margin to 61-60 with 8:06 left.
But then Bluthenthal buried the first of his three crucial outside jumpers. A 3-pointer from the right corner, followed by a UK turnover and another trey from the left wing pushed the lead to 67-60 at the 6:08 mark.
Kentucky never regrouped, struggling to claw back within striking range. The last opportunity came with under a minute to play as Bogans took a rebound and went end to end for a dunk to cut the Trojans' lead to 75-72. The Cats then got a steal from Erik Daniels, and the freshman forward followed that up with a putback basket to make it a one-point game with 32 seconds left.
Two free throws by Bluthenthal pushed the lead back to three. On its next possession, UK elected to attack the basket instead of settling for a potential game-typing 3-pointer. Bogans was fouled, but missed both attempts. Bluthenthal hit two more free throws at the :14.6 mark to finish off the Cats.
"I knew they were a veteran team and they weren't going to get rattled," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We tried to pressure them and force turnovers, but we turned the ball over even against their zone."
Free throws proved to be key on both sides. USC hit 16 of 25 while UK made only eight of 16. The Cats were also stung by an untimely off-game for junior forward Tayshaun Prince, who scored only six points on 2-for-8 shooting after averaging 29 in the first two games of the tournament.
"We knew there were two guys who could beat us, Bogans and Prince," Bibby said. "We concentrated on Prince, forced him to put the ball on the floor and kept him from shooting threes."
Bogans scored 21 of his team-high 23 points in the second half to pace Kentucky. Parker followed with a career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds. Playing his final game for the Cats, Smith scored 17 points on the strength of five 3-pointers.
Kentucky shot 44 percent (30 of 69) from the field and committed 16 costly turnovers. Seven of those came from Prince and Bogans.
"They got us standing around," Tubby Smith said. "It wasn't so much their defense, it was our defense or lack of defense. In the first half, we didn't play with the same passion, the same intensity that you have to play with at this level in order to win."
In addition to Bluthenthal, USC got 17 points from Clancy, 14 from Jeff Trepagnier and 13 from Brian Scalabrine. The Trojans shot 53 percent (28 of 53) from the field, one of only three teams (Indiana, Alabama, Florida) to top the 50-percent mark against the Cats this season. Kentucky lost all but the IU game.
"It's a big win for the program," said Clancy, a junior forward and the Trojans' leading scorer and rebounder on the season. "It's been so long since this program has done this. It means a lot to us. People kept saying if we lost, people would be proud of us anyway for making it this far. That's not what we had in mind. We were able to go out there and win. Hopefully we can continue on."
Jason Parker (#42) is fouled by USC's Sam Clancy
Tayshaun Prince slides by Clancy for a shot
Keith Bogans (#10) looks to pass