- Friday, March 21 2003 -
NCAA Midwest Regional First Round (at Nashville, TN)
Kentucky - 95 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Final Rank 1st by AP]
IUPUI - 64 (Head Coach: Ron Hunter) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 48, IUPUI 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi State 64 - 57|||||Utah 74 - 54|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats win NCAA Tournament opener, 95-64
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- All that talk of no-name IUPUI shocking the world? Kentucky, college basketball's kingpin, was having none of it, routing the overmatched Jaguars 95-64 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
UK (30-3) took IUPUI out of its attempt to shorten the game by holding the ball early, then unleashed a scorching hot Gerald Fitch against the zone as the Cats rolled. Fitch, who had not shot particularly well in the Southeastern Conference Tournament a week before, tied his career-high with 25 points and set a new high water mark with five three-pointers.
"The rest of the team did a great job finding (Fitch)," junior Cliff Hawkins said. "He had the hot hand."
Fitch's shooting got UK rolling on the scoreboard, but it was the trash talking by IUPUI (20-14) the day before the game that had the Cats ready to prowl. To a man, the UK players said the Jags would have been better served to keep their mouths shut instead of upsetting the nation's top ranked team.
"I don't think our intensity was sky high like when we play a good team," Hawkins said. "But we felt they had no chance. We didn't want to come out and say that (Thursday), but we did."
In essence, Hawkins was right, IUPUI was hopelessly fighting uphill from the opening tip. UK didn't play particularly well, especially early on, but the Cats seemed to flip the switch whenever the Jaguars found any ray of hope.
"They've got McDonald's All-Americans and our guys eat at McDonald's," IUPUI Coach Ron Hunter said. "Our kids came in before tip-off and I knew, their eyes were big. If you counted all our games the last five years, we haven't played in front of that many people."
They also hadn't seen a team as talented as UK. The Cats shot 61.5 percent for the game, including nearly 68 percent in the second half. UK's guards were red-hot, with Fitch, Keith Bogans and Hawkins scoring 51 points on 20-of-32 shooting. The Cats also put on a passing exhibition, netting 22 assists on 40 made field goals and scoring 23 points on the fast break.
IUPUI on the other hand shot just 36.7 percent, the seventh opponent in the last eight games UK has held below 38 percent from the field. The Jaguars were forced into 19 turnovers and made just 4-of-15 from beyond the arc.
"They tried to use that whole David and Goliath thing to motivate themselves," sophomore Chuck Hayes said. "Really what it did was motivate us. You'd think we'd get a little more respect, but I guess not."
Although IUPUI talked a big game before the first ever meeting between the two schools, and their first NCAA Tournament appearance, several players admitted afterwards they knew the were in trouble last weekend.
"It was fun to get here, but why couldn't we have gotten anyone but Kentucky?" senior Josh Mullins wondered aloud.
It was that kind of day for the Cats, when even a partially disinterested effort was far more than IUPUI could handle.
Gerald Fitch lays in a basket