- Tuesday, November 26 2002 -
Maui Classic Invitational (at Lahaina, HI)
Kentucky - 61 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 15th by AP]
Virginia - 75 (Head Coach: Pete Gillen) - [Unranked]
|Nick Vander Laan||20||2||5||0||0||0||0||2||6||8||3||2||1||0||2||4|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 32, Virginia 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Arizona State 82 - 65|||||Gonzaga 80 - 72|
Game Writeup - Written by Darrell Bird; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK can't hit Pacific, falls to Virginia in Maui
LAHAINA, Maui - Kentucky's shooting was so poor Tuesday that the Cats couldn't throw it in the ocean, a perfect analogy given that the Lahaina Civic Center sits atop a breath-taking view of the Pacific Ocean just a few hundred yards below.
"I thought we were shooting the ball good after yesterday, but today is another day," said UK coach Tubby Smith following a 75-61 loss to Virginia in the Maui Invitational semifinals.
On Monday, Kentucky made 51 percent of its shots in an 82-65 win over Arizona State. On Tuesday, they hit just 39 percent in losing to Virginia. Even worse, UK won only 2-of-22 on three-pointers against the Cavaliers, and missed its first 17 tries.
"We got the good looks, we just didn't knock the shots down," said senior Keith Bogans, who was only 4-of-13 after hitting 7-of-10 less than 24 hours earlier.
"We had some good looks, though I think we settled for the outside shot," Smith said. "But what happens is that you miss a couple and all of a sudden you get a little tight. The basket gets a little smaller."
UK guard Gerald Fitch said it was more zone than a shrinking rim.
"I guess the rim might seem smaller to some people," Fitch said. "But to me when you're not hitting the outside shot you need to go make a layup to get your confidence back. But because of Virginia's zone, we couldn't do that, and then your confidence suffers more and more."
That zone Fitch speaks of was a key to the outcome. Virginia played zone defense for nearly the full 40 minutes, a rarity according to coach Pete Gillen.
"Maybe once last year against Georgetown, but very rarely would we do that," Gillen said. "I'm not a zone coach, but sometimes you have to put your ego in your pocket and do what you can to win the game."
Kentucky ran into numerous zone defenses last season during a horrendous shooting season, but the Cats were red hot in the Maui opener.
"They had been shooting well coming in so I was worried about it," Gillen said. "But we just couldn't go man-to-man against them. (Marquis) Estill is too big and Bogans, at 6-5, is too big for us to handle. That's why we went to the zone. Fortunately, it was effective for us."
And effective for many other teams to come so long as Kentucky fails to make baskets.
"Other teams are going to use the same game plan and play zone so long as we're missing shots," guard Gerald Fitch said. "We'd better be prepared."
As it turned out, it was Kentucky's worst nightmare. Shots weren't falling from the outside and Estill, who opened by scoring 10 of UK's first 14 points, played only 13 minutes because of foul trouble.
Estill's first foul came 10 seconds into the game when his feet became entangled with a Virginia player. With the second foul, Estill exited for the final 13:37 of the first half with UK up 18-14 at the time. After intermission, Estill scored UK's first basket but was whistled for fouling Virginia's Travis Watson on a baseline drive just 30 seconds into the half. Foul number four came 31 seconds later when he was playing body-up defense. Both calls were questionable in a game where rough play was allowed.
"I didn't agree with any of them," Estill said. "It was real frustrating for me because I was really into the game."
Smith, however, said his big center must learn to avoid needless fouls.
"On that first one, he got his feet tangled up, which wasn't a very smart thing to do," Smith said. "There was no reason to challenge that. It was early in the game. On the third foul, I think he just waved at him (Watson) when he was going for the dunk. I'm not sure if he touched him or not. Just avoid that, and stay away from it. He needs to be smarter about how he uses his fouls."
But the real crunch comes when Estill reached three fouls seconds into the second half.
"He has got to learn to play with three fouls," Smith said. "Hopefully it won't happen often, but he's going to be in that situation in other games. You have to learn how to play."
Without Estill, Virginia dominated the boards and outrebounded UK by 12 in the second half.
"I was just sitting there thinking, ‘Why can't I be out there?'" Estill said. "Good things happen when I'm on the floor. I give us a big body."
Indeed. UK raced to an 18-9 lead behind Estill but had to hold on for a 32-30 halftime advantage because of a scoring drought that lasted nearly 10 minutes midway through the first half.
The second half was nip and tuck early, but Virginia grabbed the lead for good at 44-42 with just under 15 minutes to go. The Cats managed to cut it to 61-59 with about two minutes to go but Virginia's Devin Smith hit three straight three-pointers as the Cavaliers outscored UK 14-2 during down the stretch.
Kentucky's final game in Maui is 11:30 a.m. (4:30 EST) on Wednesday. After Thanksgiving, the Cats return to Kentucky on Friday and will play their Rupp Arena opener on Dec. 3 against High Point.
Antwain Barbour blocks the shot of Virginia's Travis Watson (#35)