- Sunday, January 9 2005 -
Kansas - 65 (Head Coach: Bill Self) - [Ranked 2nd by AP]
Kentucky - 59 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 8th by AP and 8th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 25, Kansas 21
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|South Carolina 79 - 75|||||Vanderbilt 69 - 54|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK can't shoot straight, score inside in loss
When two of college basketball's most storied programs hook up, a heavyweight title bout is always expected. Kansas and Kentucky didn't disappoint, but the Jayhawks proved just a bit more lethal with their punches and exited Rupp Arena with arms raised after a 65-59 victory.
"Some of the same problems we've had all year hurt us again," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "We struggled shooting the ball obviously and when we had opportunities when it got close, we made bad decisions, undisciplined decisions."
The game wasn't at all pretty from the very outset. Both teams struggled to get anything going offensively as the physicality in the paint took center stage. Time and again, defenders swatted away shots, trapped on the block and challenged the drive. The result was an ugly first half that set offensive basketball back decades, as UK used a late 14-2 run to take a 25-21 lead at the break.
But as has been the case in a handful of UK's games this season, the Cats seemingly fell in love with 1-on-1 play, poor ball movement, lack of screening and spotty shot selection. It didn't take long for Kansas to seize the moment and turn the halftime deficit into a lead thanks to a more aggressive approach near the basket. In fact, Kansas was already shooting the bonus by the 10:18 mark and had three baskets that drew a foul by the first television timeout of the second half.
Meanwhile, UK's post players were suffering their worst performance of the season with the exception of the North Carolina loss. Freshman Randolph Morris, who had shown signs of growth the past few games, missed all eight of his field goal attempts and was repeatedly beaten on the glass by Kansas freshmen CJ. Giles and Sasha Kaun.
"Our post players didn't play well at all," Smith said. "(Kansas) out played us and we had a tough time guarding them inside. It took us out of our game and then we weren't strong enough to stay with the game plan."
The Cats' lack of cohesion began to show early in the game, but reached a breaking point in the second half. Although Kansas was missing star forward Wayne Simien, then lost Keith Langford to a concussion and Christian Moody to a sprained ankle during the second half, the Jayhawks' endless trapping on the block flustered UK into a stalled offense.
UK, which has struggled shooting the ball all year, began the game 4-of-25, then made just 33 percent in the second half. The lack of an inside game crippled the outside attack as well, forcing UK into a 6-of-26 shooting night from deep.
"We didn't say, 'Make them beat us from the perimeter,' but we weren't going to let them beat us inside," Kansas coach Bill Self said. This was the best we have looked, practice included."
The story was far different for UK, which battled but never could get over the hump. After falling behind 44-37 with 10 minutes left, the Cats rallied to close the gap to 45-44. Kansas stonewalled that surge by jumping back ahead 52-44, but UK wasn't done just yet.
Ravi Moss, who has become the Cats' dynamite stick, lit one final rally for the Cats with an offensive rebound that led to two free throws. Moss then forced a jump ball on the press (UK got the ball), and buried a three-pointer from the wing to make it 52-50 with 4:46 left. Moments later, Patrick Sparks scored on a drive to give UK a 53-52 edge with 3:54 remaining, but that was the last time UK would see the lead.
Kansas senior point guard Aaron Miles answered right back just 20 seconds later on a drive, then Morris missed a point blank hook shot. Moss missed a contested three on the next possession before Alex Galindo added two free throws to make it 56-53.
UK had one final chance, but the basketball gods seemingly sided with Kansas with 30 seconds remaining. Miles came off a pick and roll, lost his balance and fell to the floor, nearly traveling. As he hit the ground, Miles flipped a pass to the corner where high school teammate Michael Lee drilled a three as the shot clock expired to give the Jayhawks an insurmountable 61-56 lead.
"I knew where he'd be," Miles said. "We got lucky I guess, but Mike is confident in the clutch. I wasn't going to lose (the ball), but I might have traveled."
Smith said it was that kind of day for UK, which lost for the second time to a Top 10 team.
"Huge play," Smith said. "I thought he walked, but I guess he didn't. You put a lot of pressure on, make a runÉthat's just a dagger. That was a real killer there."
It might have been the deciding play, but UK is still looking for the right combination of things to be the team it expects to be. As this loss showed them, the Cats still have some work to do.
Kelenna Azubuike works against KU's Aaron Miles
Miles returns the favor against UK's Rajon Rondo