- Saturday, March 12 2005 -
SEC Tournament (at Atlanta, GA)
Kentucky - 79 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 4th by AP and 4th by ESPN/USA Today]
Louisiana State - 78 (Head Coach: John Brady) - [Unranked]
|Ross Neltner (*)||15||2||5||1||2||2||2||2||3||5||2||0||0||1||0||7|
Halftime Score: Louisiana State 32, Kentucky 31
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Tennessee 76 - 62|||||Florida 53 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Hayes hoop sends Cats past LSU
ATLANTA -- Chuck Hayes was watching his fairy tell ending slip away second by second, so the senior decided it was time to rewrite the ending.
Hayes erased a day's worth of frustration by dominating the final two minutes of overtime in Kentucky's breathtaking 79-78 victory over LSU in front of 24,214 fans at the Georgia Dome. The senior willed the Cats (25-4) to their third straight SEC Tournament championship game by driving past mammoth LSU freshman Glen Davis and banking in a lay-up with 7.9 seconds left, then snatching a final rebound away from Davis when Tack Minor's runner clanged off the rim in the closing seconds.
"It feels good," Hayes said. "It's such a relief. I was struggling the whole game, couldn't finish down low the way I wanted and was hampered by foul trouble. I'm just thankful for Coach (Tubby Smith) to have the confidence in me to call my number and my teammates to have the confidence in me to take the shot. It just feels good."
The classic March Madness ending had a unique twist to it, as UK coach Tubby Smith called the same play that failed miserably in a near identical situation a week ago at Florida. This time around, the Cats ran the play to perfection with Rajon Rondo dribbling to the right side as Patrick Sparks set a back screen on Davis to free Hayes. Hayes took Rondo's pass and drove to his left, past Davis before flipping the ball off the glass.
"That was the same exact play," sophomore Bobby Perry said. "It'll work every time if we run it right. Pat set a huge screen on Davis. Pat moved him. Then Chuck made an awesome play.
"(The play) works all the time in practice. It's impossible to guard. We knew we ran it wrong in the Florida game, but that it would work if we ran it right and got the ball in the right person's hands."
LSU rushed back down the floor with the ball in point guard Tack Minor's hands, but Minor was closed off about eight feet from the basket and forced a contested runner that clanged off the rim. Fittingly, Hayes ripped the rebound away from Davis and spiked the ball off the Georgia Dome floor, setting off an emotional celebration by the Cats.
"It means a lot," Hayes said of his first game-winning shot. "It's a great feeling when you see guys come together and guys pushing each other. Guys look to me to lead them and I was struggling the whole game and my head was down when I went to the bench and they still encouraged me. For me to come through with the shot I did, it's a good feeling."
Of course the ending could have been just as bitter for Hayes and the rest of the Cats. UK uncharacteristically blew a seven-point lead in the final 90 seconds by missing the front end of two one-and-ones at the free throw line while allowing LSU's Darrel Mitchell to swish consecutive three-pointers. When Randolph Morris missed the second of two free throws with 7.2 seconds left in regulation that left the UK lead at 70-68, SEC Player of the Year Brandon Bass rebounded and dribble up court, spun near the three-point arc, then used every part of the rim and glass to sink the game-tying jumper over Hayes at the horn.
"I knew it wasn't a three because by the time he did the spin move, he came inside the three-point line," Hayes said. "I had a good contest on it, I knew he was going to shoot it and then it hit about every part of the rim before it went in. He was able to get enough arch on it. There was nothing more I can do."
UK quickly fell behind 76-71 in the overtime period after the Tigers converted the second of two runout lay-ins. Sparks swished a three from the corner with Davis running at him to close the gap to 78-76 with 1:36 left, then Hayes rebounded a missed Kelenna Azubuike free throw (Azubuike made the first) , setting up the final sequence.
"Every day Coach stresses that we have the best model in America in Chuck Hayes," freshman Ramel Bradley said. "For him to make those plays, that's just huge."
It was the perfect ending to a not-so-perfect day for both Hayes and the Cats.
Sheray Thomas and Kelenna Azubuike defend
Ramel Bradley (#3) shoots against "Baby Shaq" Glen Davis