- Sunday, March 23 2003 -
NCAA Midwest Regional Second Round (at Nashville, TN)
Kentucky - 74 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Final Rank 1st by AP]
Utah - 54 (Head Coach: Rick Majerus) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, Utah 23
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|IUPUI 95 - 64|||||Wisconsin 63 - 57|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK controls Utah, advances to Sweet 16
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - New year, same story.
Kentucky and Utah met again in the NCAA Tournament, but just like it did four times in the 1990's, UK sent the Utes home unhappy, working to a methodical 74-54 victory at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
The Cats (31-3) never trailed, opening up a 14-point halftime lead, then cruising in the second half. Utah (25-8) did close the gap to nine at 51-42 with just under 11 minutes to go, but UK Coach Tubby Smith called a timeout, ripped his team and the Cats went on an 11-4 run to seal the victory.
The win was the Cats' 25th consecutive this season, the nation's longest streak. It also sent UK to the Sweet 16 to face Big Ten Conference champion Wisconsin in Minneapolis, Minn.
"We knew we'd have to come with one of our better games even though they didn't have (Britton Johnsen)," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "Then we were able to get the tempo where we wanted it."
Utah, which sticks to a slowdown, execution-based style of play, predictably tried to run the clock, shorten the game and confuse the Cats with its myriad of screens and cuts. But UK did a terrific job of switching and fighting through screens, forcing the Utes to either shoot over outstretched arms or on the run.
While UK was locking down the Utes defensively, the Cats were taking full advantage of Utah's insistence on trying to play center Marquis Estill one-on-one with their two 7-footers. The Cats attacked both Tim Frost and Cameron Koford early and often, leading to Estill's 10 points and six rebounds in the first half.
"I guess they figured they were better off with their big guys," junior Cliff Hawkins said. "If they let Quis get off, they'd be ok. Basically (for us), it was just get the ball to Quis and get out of the way."
While some of the Cats were surprised Utah stayed with that approach as long as it did, Smith said he thought UK would be able to exploit the matchup.
"That's (Utah's) style," Smith said. "That's tough because Quis is an excellent passer. You have to choose what you want (to take away). Do you take your chances by giving up the two, or do you keep us from getting a three?"
Utah chose to take away guards Gerald Fitch and Keith Bogans, leaving Estill to dominate inside for 18 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting.
"I don't remember the last time," Estill said of how long it had been since being played straight up. "It's been a long time. I was surprised they kept it up after we were going inside every time.
"My eyes lit up. I was glad they weren't going to help. It's been a while since I could just catch and go."
Utah Coach Rick Majerus said he had no choice but to play that style.
"If I had a zone, I would have zoned," Majerus said. "This was a team where we needed one."
With UK pounding it inside, the Cats were able to open up a nice lead before the Utes made one final run midway through the second half. After a three-pointer from Frost pulled Utah to within 51-42, UK reeled off a 15-4 spurt, including 11-2 after Smith ripped his players during the under eight minute television timeout.
"(Smith) wanted us to keep our focus up," Fitch said. "A few times they caught us sleeping."
Utah might have caught UK sleeping at times, but it will be the Utes that will have enduring nightmares about Kentucky blue.
Keith Bogans (#10) defends against Utah's Marc Jackson
Cliff Hawkins (#1) gets poked in the eye by Utah's Marc Jackson
Keith Bogans extends for a finger-roll