- Wednesday, January 8 2003 -
Kentucky - 74 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 18th by AP]
Tennessee - 71 (Head Coach: Buzz Peterson) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 29
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|Ohio 83 - 75|||||South Carolina 62 - 55|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK hits free throws, wins thriller at Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - History had not been kind to Kentucky the last few years when road games came down to the final minute.
The Cats lost in overtime to both Tennessee and Mississippi State away from home last season, then found themselves in another barn-burner at Thompson-Boling Arena to start the Southeastern Conference slate again this season.
But unlike past experiences, the Cats were the ones making the plays at the end, using six straight points from Jules Camara and two clutch free throws from Gerald Fitch to edge Tennessee and get off on the right foot in the conference.
"I was pleased with the guys' effort," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "We were making plays down the stretch, especially Jules. (Jules) had good numbers, he was making shots, had a clutch block and was very active."
Camara did not enter the game until Marquis Estill left with his fourth foul at the 7:55 mark of the second half. The senior, who had two huge baskets and the game-winning block against Indiana, buried a long jumper with 4:53 left, hit two free throws a 2:08, and then drilled a free throw line jumper with 53.1 seconds left to give UK a 72-71 lead.
"He's a senior," fellow senior Keith Bogans said. "It's hard to rattle him. This was a big game and he knocked those shots down."
Still, UK (10-3, 1-0 SEC) had to survive a last gasp three-point attempt by Tennessee freshman John Winchester to survive. Although the final play was set up for Ron Slay, Winchester found himself with the ball at the top of the key, pump faked UK's Cliff Hawkins, then clanged his game-tying attempt. Fittingly, Camara grabbed the final board for UK as time ran out.
"Going down the stretch, we were trying to get Ron a shot, but (UK) really locked up on him," Tennessee Coach Buzz Peterson said.
The Cats survived mainly because they forced Tennessee (7-3, 0-1) into foul trouble, with key Vols' Brandon Crump and John Higgins in and out of the game with fouls all night long. UK hit 28-of-34 free throws, including 19-of-21 in the second half and its final 11 attempts to aide the win. It was UK's best effort from the line since hitting 80 percent last February 23rd against Arkansas.
"The key was getting to the line and getting them in foul trouble," Smith said.
Although UK allowed the Vols to shoot 50 percent from the field, they held the Slay, the SEC's leading scorer, to a relatively quiet 22 points and six boards.
Conversely, Bogans, who was benched to start the game for being late to a team function earlier in the day, responded with 20 points and a season-high nine rebounds. Fitch added 17 points and Camara had 12 points and five boards. The trio combined for 33 of UK's 45 second half points.
The win also gives the Cats confidence in late-game situations.
"That comes from tough scheduling," Bogans said. "Then it comes down to making plays."
Brandon Crump and Marquis Estill tip-off the SEC schedule