- Tuesday, November 30 2004 -
Tennessee Tech - 63 (Head Coach: Mike Sutton) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 92 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 40, Tennessee Tech 33
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|Georgia State 77 - 59|||||North Carolina 78 - 91|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats play best second half in swarming Tech
The Tubby Smith coaching circle had a reunion in Rupp Arena, but only Smith was left smiling when the dust settled, as Kentucky exploded in the second half for a 92-63 rout over Tennessee Tech.
The Cats turned the slim halftime contest into a laugher, sprinting away on a 19-3 run that expanded their lead to 22 midway through the second half. From there, all Tennessee Tech, led by former Smith assistant Mike Sutton and assistant coach Saul Smith, could do was weather the storm and escape Rupp without further injury.
"We played the game the right way in the second half," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "That was our best half of basketball so far. It came at the right time. We are starting to learn to play together, share the ball and we had a good defensive effort in the second half."
UK dominated the second 20 minutes, displaying what seems to be the trademark of one game-changing spurt early on in the half. The tide-turning jaunt was necessary after the two teams slogged to a 40-33 halftime score in the midst of 24 fouls being called. The Cats could never pull away in the first half, as senior leader Chuck Hayes endured foul trouble and Tennessee Tech played sticky defense.
But that changed to begin the second half, as UK picked up the tempo and started knocking down shots, which in turn freed up the paint area. The spurt was capped with four consecutive three-pointers, two by Kelenna Azubuike and one each from Patrick Sparks and Josh Carrier.
"In the first half we were a little lackadaisical," Carrier said. "Coach got on us and made some adjustments. We played harder and smarter."
With the trip to North Carolina looming, there were plenty of bright spots to help ease Smith's mind. Azubuike broke out of his mini-slump with 21 points, while Hayes added his third double double in four games despite the foul trouble, finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Even Bobby Perry got into the act when Hayes was in foul trouble, grabbing seven rebounds and producing two steals.
"This was a hard one," Hayes said. "We had to work for it. Coach Sutton had a great game plan and they were in the game."
In fact, Sutton's familiarity with UK's offensive sets could have been a blessing in disguise as the schedule starts to be peppered with potential land mines. In the first half, each time UK called out a play, Sutton Ð knowing the play Ð directed his troops into the proper defensive alignment. The knowledge forced UK to execute the best it had all season.
"Coach (Smith) stressed that all week," Carrier said. "They knew everything we were going to do. Executing was key. It was very simple, you had to screen, cut and pass. Teams will scout us, they have easy access on our stuff."
Perry said the younger players could benefit from understanding the importance of being perfect in their execution.
"It was extremely tough to run plays, but even if they know what you are doing, if you set good screens and pass the ball, they can't guard you," Perry said. "This was a big learning experience."
In the end, Smith and UK got exactly what they wanted. Smith saw his team finally play up to the level he had hoped for, especially defensively, where Tennessee Tech had just four assists against 23 turnovers.
STUDENT MEETS PUPIL
Mike Sutton spent many years as Smith's right-hand man, which makes his about as reliable a source to breakdown a UK team as anyone. That said, Sutton sees the potential for big things from this year's team, although it will take some time.
"I think Tubby has a great bunch of kids," Sutton said. "When you watch them on film, I think they have a chance to be pretty good down the road. They will be up and down, but they're so different than last year because of the depth factor.
"At this point in the season teams are going to be up and down. When you watch the film, sometimes they had some times where they flow, and I know Coach is working on execution."
Smith wouldn't give the reason for sophomore center Shagari Alleyne's not seeing the court in the victory, but he did say afterwards that it was in response to Alleyne not pulling his weight in some area.
"It was a coach's decision," Smith said. "That's all I'll say. Hopefully he understands that you have to take care of business."
Randolph Morris scoops a shot against Willie Jenkins
Joe Crawford fights for the ball