- Tuesday, February 10 2004 -
Alabama - 55 (Head Coach: Mark Gottfried) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 66 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 27, Alabama 26
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|South Carolina 65 - 64|||||Georgia 68 - 74|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cardiac Cats "rout" Alabama by 11
Antwain Barbour might finally be getting settled in at his old Kentucky home, just in time to help Kentucky's postseason aspirations.
The senior scored UK's first 13 points of the night when the Cats were struggling mightily, then added 10 more for a career-high 23 points in UK's 66-55 victory before 22,042 fans at Rupp Arena.
"When Antwain steps up like that, it makes a big difference," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "You could see his confidence pick up with every minute on the court. This is something we expected from him. He's very capable of scoring in bunches."
With UK (17-3, 7-2 SEC) crawling out of the gate, scoring just four points in the first eight minutes to fall behind 13-4, the Cats needed a spark. Starting his second game in place of the injured Gerald Fitch, Barbour lifted both the crowd and his own spirits, going on a binge where he banged home eight points in just over two minutes to cut the Alabama lead to 15-13. The spurt got the crowd going and UK's defensive pressure picked up, hounding the Crimson Tide (11-9, 3-6).
"Our defensive effort picked up about three-quarters of the way through the first half," Smith said. "I thought our defensive intensity was the difference."
Barbour wasn't bad himself. The early 13 points tied his career-high, set against Virginia in his second game as a Cat. His 10-of-13 shooting night erased all the memories of his struggles at UK to this point. The performance also had Alabama coach Mark Gottfried shrugging his shoulders.
"He surprised us," Gottfried said. "Against South Carolina, he got good minutes. It probably helped him as far as being more comfortable. In the first half, we had a good start, but he was a difference maker."
So was the UK defense. After giving up several easy looks early and missing six shots in the paint in the first five minutes, Smith took all five starters out of the game. When Smith returned the group to the lineup at the 11:14 mark, the Cats immediately went on an 11-2 spurt fueled by an increasingly effective press.
The bad start did not carry over to the second half, as UK ripped off an 18-4 jaunt moments into the half to claim a 52-36 lead. Despite several quick shots and ill-advised fouls down the stretch, the Cats held on for a rather easy (by their standards) victory.
"We know defense is what gets us going," junior Chuck Hayes said. "This particular team, (defense) is the only way we know how to win. Give Coach credit, we deserved to be benched. That lit a spark underneath us."
As for not having to sweat out the final moments of a game for the first time since mid-January, Smith was more than thrilled.
"It was a relief," Smith said. "A lot less stressful."
If Barbour keeps it up, there could be more nights like this for UK.
Antwain Barbour rises above the Tide defenders
Sheray Thomas caps a fast break dunk