- Tuesday, January 13 2004 -
Kentucky - 67 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Mississippi State - 66 (Head Coach: Rick Stansbury) - [Ranked 20th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, Mississippi State 28
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|Vanderbilt 75 - 63|||||Georgia 57 - 65|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
"Garbage" never smelled so good for UK, Daniels
STARKVILLE, Miss. - It was a typical Erik Daniels "garbage" shot, but the timing was anything but for Kentucky.
The senior forward banked in a 2-footer as time expired to send UK to a 67-66 victory over Mississippi State, the Cats' 21st consecutive Southeastern Conference victory and ninth straight on the road.
"That's Erik, always getting garbage buckets," senior Gerald Fitch said. "He's always in the right place at the right time."
This garbage man special came up smelling like roses for UK (11-1, 2-0 SEC), which needed a miracle in the final 2.5 seconds to sneak past Mississippi State. During a timeout before the final play, after Cliff Hawkins saved possession by diving for a loose ball and forcing a jump ball, UK coach Tubby Smith drew up a play to get Fitch a clean look.
As expected, State (13-1, 2-1 SEC) double teamed Fitch, completely taking away that option. Hawkins, who was inbounding the ball, saw Chuck Hayes streak towards the basket and lobbed an alley-oop attempt for the burly forward, but it was broken up by MSU's Lawrence Roberts. Daniels, whose man had gone to help double Fitch, rolled to the basket and picked up the tipped ball and laid it in left-handed from the left side of the goal as the buzzer sounded. The officials converged on a television monitor as UK's team streamed across the floor and saw the ball left Daniels' hand long before the buzzer went off.
"I got lucky, it went in," Daniels joked afterwards. "Nah, we drew it up for Gerald to get a jump shot. (The ball) bounced right to me. I'm always looking for easy buckets."
Hawkins said he knew UK's only chance was to get the ball to the rim once Fitch was shut down.
"It was the only play I could make," Hawkins said. "If I threw it to Gerald, they would have stolen it. I saw Chuck go to the basket, but Roberts recovered. Erik just stayed in the right spot."
The ending overshadowed another Mississippi State comeback against UK and a near repeat of the game two years ago at Humphrey Coliseum where State erased a late deficit and won in overtime.
After blowing a nine-point lead with 5:04 remaining, the Cats fell behind State 64-63 for the first time in the game with 1:57 left. Just 56 seconds later, the Bulldogs took the lead at 66-65 when the ball appeared to bounce of UK's Kelenna Azubuike and into the basket on a rebound from Timmy Bowers' three-point miss.
The final minute was a blur from there. Roberts, who finished the game with 15 points and 14 rebounds, came from behind to steal the ball from Hayes, but Winsome Frazier missed the front end of a one-and-one from the free throw line. Still, the ball went off Fitch and out of bounds to MSU with 26 seconds left, leaving UK to foul Bowers, a 76 percent free throw shooter.
Bowers missed the front end of his one-and-one and UK rebounded the ball with 20 seconds left. Fitch tried to create a shot in the lane, but dribbled the ball off his leg, leading to the jump ball Hawkins forced.
"Number one, it started with Cliff tying the ball up," Smith said. "For Cliff to dive and get that jump ball, we wouldn't have gotten that opportunity if he doesn't do that."
The play set up the final seconds, a little bit of luck for a team which hadn't tasted defeat in the league 676 days, dating back to March 8, 2002 against South Carolina.
"Somebody up there loves us," Hayes said.
More likely, it was just Daniels making garbage the prettiest thing UK fans have seen in a long time.
Erik Daniels (#14) shoots against MSU's Lawrence Roberts (#4)
Winsome Frazier (#23) shoots over Cliff Hawkins (#1)
Chuck Hayes (#44) battles Lawrence Roberts for the rebound