- Wednesday, February 18 2004 -
Arkansas - 56 (Head Coach: Stan Heath) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 73 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 9th by AP and 9th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, Arkansas 23
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Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats celebrate Fitch's return with easy win
Gerald Fitch returned to the court to give Kentucky a lift, but Cliff Hawkins stole the show by dishing out 11 assists as the Cats sped past Arkansas 73-56 at Rupp Arena.
Fitch scored eight points after missing three games with a sprained index finger on his shooting hand, but it was Hawkins who keyed the Cats' attack. The senior point guard finished with five points, five rebounds and 11 assists, matching his season and career high.
"I was impressed and pleased with Cliff and the way he distributed the ball and ran the team," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "When he was giving up the ball, guys were scoring and making shots.
"He had probably one of his best games of the year in his ability to run the team and taking charge, calling plays. I should have allowed him to do more of that because he's very capable."
With Hawkins playing at such a high level, the Cats (18-4, 8-3 SEC) were able to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Erik Daniels, coming off two poor games and a being called Ôscared' by Smith, was the main beneficiary of Hawkins' lasers, scoring 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
"I told him he needed to move more and not allow the defense to take him out of the game," Smith said of Daniels. "He was being guarded by someone he could be a little more mobile with."
The performance was just what the doctor ordered after the Cats were swept away in Georgia last weekend, leaving Smith to call for 6 a.m. practices and a renewed focus from his team.
The Cats used a 14-2 spurt in the first half to jump ahead 25-12 and Arkansas (11-12, 3-9) never seriously threatened after that. A 12-4 spurt in the second half had UK pulling away and the lead grew to as many as 24 late in the second half before UK coach Tubby Smith called off the dogs.
"Two things happened that were really costly for us, we didn't defend well," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "Secondly, we didn't handle their pressure well enough."
While UK held the Razorbacks to just 37 percent shooting, the Cats drilled 57.4 percent from the field, the highest since shooting 64 percent against Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 23. Ironically enough, the Cats' 17-point margin was the highest since beating Eastern Kentucky by 29. UK also had 21 assists on its 27 baskets and got solid play from freshmen Sheray Thomas and Bobby Perry, who combined for 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
Still, the Cats said they aren't satisfied with one good game as the season draws to a close.
"One game is not good enough for me," sophomore Ravi Moss said. "We want to try and finish strong. We have five games left to finish as strong as possible."
If this game was any indication, UK is at least pointed in the right direction.
Bernard Cote eyes the basket
Erik Daniels shoots over Matt and Michael Jones