- Saturday, February 7 2004 -
South Carolina - 64 (Head Coach: Dave Odom) - [Ranked 25th by AP]
Kentucky - 65 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 9th by AP and 9th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 27
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|Florida 68 - 65|||||Alabama 66 - 55|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Heart attack Cats win another thriller, claim 1st
Groundhog's Day came and went, but the Kentucky basketball team is staging its own rendition of the holiday nearly every time it steps on the floor this season.
Once again playing down to the wire, the Cats used a huge three-point play by enigmatic senior Antwain Barbour and perfect defense on the final play to edge past South Carolina 65-64 in front of 23,244 fans at Rupp Arena.
The Cats (16-3, 6-2 SEC) took sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with the victory, ending up on the right side of nine second half lead changes. UK took the lead for good when Cliff Hawkins found Barbour settled on the baseline, who laid it in and completed a three-point play to give UK a 65-63 lead with 1:09 left.
"Barbour did a good job of just getting behind the defense," Hawkins said. "He made a great read. The easy part was getting him the basketball."
Carlos Powell responded by hitting one of two free throws to close the gap to one for Carolina (19-4, 6-3), then the Gamecocks forced a turnover by Hawkins with the shot clock set to expire. The Gamecocks tried to free up Josh Gonner for a look, but had to call a timeout with 4.3 seconds left to set up a play.
After UK used a timeout to check South Carolina's alignment, Mike Boynton inbounded the ball to Kerbrell Brown, who tried to find Powell or Gonner for a shot. The Cats locked down both the targets and Brown tried to drive baseline, but was cut off by Erik Daniels, dictating a forced leaner that hit squarely off the side of the backboard as the final horn sounded.
"Coach (Dave) Odom told me to hit Carlos at the post if he was open but to shoot if he wasn't," Brown said. "I was on the baseline and drove to the basket and I d a bad angle. Daniels just forced me to shoot from there with his defense."
Daniels said UK had Carolina defended perfectly on the play.
"Coach (Tubby Smith) told us where to be," Daniels said. "We knew they wanted to get the ball in and get a quick shot. (Brown) was the only man open, so they had to throw him the ball."
The thrilling finish capped an equally exciting game between the upstart Gamecocks and SEC heavyweight Cats. Carolina led most of the first half but UK tied the game up at the break and took a six-point advantage several times in the second half. Each time the Cats threatened to pull away, Carolina fought back to take the lead on the strength of open three-point looks and three three-point plays.
The final two minutes were breathtaking even by UK's hold-your-breath standards, with the lead changing hand four times. Gonner made one free throw to take a 60-59 lead at exactly two minutes, then Kelenna Azubuike drilled a three from the top of the key after Barbour slipped to put UK back in front 62-60 at 1:43.
Boynton came right back for Carolina, drilling a three over top of Daniels at 1:21 left for a 63-62 lead. Hawkins then found Barbour to give UK a lead it would hold onto the final minute. The Cats have now won 15 of the last 16 meeting between the two schools.
"This is a disappointing loss," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "We played well enough to win most games, but this not just any game against not just any team in not just any arena.
"Kentucky stood up better. Give Kentucky a lot of credit. They were playing two people (Gerald Fitch and Brandon Stockton) down."
As for yet another nail-biter, the Cats say it's so routine now they don't have any fear of losing in tight spots.
"One of our big things has been being poised in tight situations," Hawkins said. "We haven't gotten rattled. It's been our thing this year. We're used to it. We don't panic."
Bill Murray would be proud of this group.
Chuck Hayes defends
Antwain Barbour comes up with a loose ball