- Friday, November 26 2004 -
Georgia State - 59 (Head Coach: Michael Perry) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 77 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 38, Georgia State 23
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|Ball State 73 - 53|||||Tennessee Tech 92 - 63|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK bullies way past Georgia State in the paint
The Kentucky basketball team powered past Georgia State 77-59 in its Thanksgiving leftovers game, but more importantly, the Wildcats might have learned a valuable lesson in the process.
Kentucky (3-0) erupted to begin the second half, beginning the game's second stanza with a 24-3 run that featured fast breaks, cut jumpers and the awakening of junior guard Kelenna Azubuike. When the dust had settled, the Cats turned a 15-point halftime edge into a 62-26 landslide with nearly 14 minutes remaining.
But that's when the intensity level slipped and Georgia State began ripping huge chunks off the Cats' lead. UK coach Tubby Smith put in his second unit – consisting of Ramel Bradley, Shagari Alleyne, Joe Crawford, Ravi Moss and Bobby Perry – and looked on as the Panthers netted three straight three-pointers to slice the deficit to 64-35. After a goaltending call and two more quick triples, Georgia State had clawed within 64-43 in less than four minutes.
"We had a substantial lead and then they started to make threes," Smith said. "We didn't necessarily let down, but when a team gets on a roll ...
"You hate to learn a lesson like that, but the best way to learn one is through experience."
Senior Chuck Hayes, who narrowly missed his third straight double double with 16 points and nine rebounds, said the youthful Cats will need to learn their killer instinct.
"We can definitely use this as a learning experience," Hayes said. "We got a big lead, the crowd was involved and then they knocked down some shots and our defensive intensity let down. Once you have a team down, you've got to keep them down."
Smith returned his starters to the game with 9:20 left and UK was able to stem the tide, but the lesson could certainly be learned. In the meantime, despite a poor outside shooting night – UK hit just 2-of-15 from deep – the inside attack picked up steam. In addition to Hayes' sterling game, freshman Randolph Morris looked more comfortable, going for 14 points and nine rebounds.
"He's a very coachable young man," Smith said. "When you tell him (something), it translates immediately."
Another bright spot for the Cats was the emergence of Azubuike from his slump. The junior had made just six of his first 22 shots on the season before he connected on six straight shots during the Cats' burst to begin the second half. Given the orders to be more aggressive by Smith at halftime, Azubuike two dunks, a tip-in, a baseline floater and two short jumpers during the run to get himself on track.
"I tried to get transition points, get baskets that way," Azubuike said. "Those are the shots you know you'll hit. Start inside and work your way out."
The Cats certainly did that, outscoring Georgia State 46-16 in the paint area and getting a 20-of-36 shooting effort from their starting frontcourt. The domination inside translated to another easy Cats' victory.
"This was a good win," Smith said. "We did some outstanding things in stretches."
They also perhaps learned their lesson in the one bad stretch of action.
The one negative on the night was UK's poor shooting from beyond the three-point arc. The Cats made just 2-of-15 on the game, with their two best long-range shooters – Kelenna Azubuike and Patrick Sparks – missing all 11 of their attempts.
"When you are shooting it inconsistent from the three-point line…if we just make half of those I feel better," Smith said. "When you are not focused on shooting well, it can be contagious. We had the right people shooting threes, they just weren't going in."
Shagari Alleyne might have taken the biggest lump of the night, but it wasn't even done on the court of play, but rather in warm ups.
As UK jacked itself up before the game with a pregame ritual of forming a circle and bumping each other, the 7-foot-3 Alleyne was getting bounced around by his teammates when he suddenly went crashing to the floor.
With his teammates laughing hysterically, Alleyne picked himself up and continued on with the ritual. While the big man claimed after the game he hit a "wet spot", the rest of the team gave the real lowdown. It was junior forward Kelenna Azubuike who floored Alleyne.
"I got a little too hyped," Azubuike said, barely controlling his laughter. "I bumped him so bad. I don't know my own strength. I clocked him. It wasn't any wet spot.
"I apologize. He's a pretty big dude."
Senior Chuck Hayes said the team picks a differently player every game, but admitted he might have reservations about Alleyne getting the middle again.
"Yeah, that's probably going to be Shagari's last time in the middle," Hayes said.
Chuck Hayes gives Kelenna Azubuike some advice
Bobby Perry fights for the ball in the paint
Chuck Hayes (#44) shoots over Georgia State's Tikoya Barnett