- Sunday, November 13 2005 -
South Dakota State - 54 (Head Coach: Scott Nagy) - [Preseason Unranked by AP]
Kentucky - 71 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Preseason Ranked 9th by AP]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, South Dakota State 24
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Michigan State 88 - 94 2 OT|||||Lipscomb 67 - 49|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats Meander Through Opening Victory
Kentucky didn't blow the doors off Rupp Arena in its season opener, but the Cats did advance to the second round of the Guardians Classic with a 71-54 victory over South Dakota State.
UK (1-0) never allowed the Jackrabbits to get any closer than 14 points in the second half, but the Cats didn't bury them either as errant jump shots and turnovers kept the final score respectable. Still, UK now faces Lipscomb on Monday night after the Bisons beat Northern Colorado 72-60 in the opener.
"I'm never satisfied," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "There are things we need to improve on. I thought our energy was good and I thought we played hard, but not very smart. That's what is troublesome."
Smith was once again mystified at UK's defensive lapses. Although the Cats held South Dakota State to just 36.9 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers, the Cats gave up a bushel of buckets at the rim and had their press sliced up by the Jackrabbits' two freshman guards.
"We took a lot of chances in the full court," Smith said. "Our press was non-existent."
The unhappiness carried over to the players, who were pleased to get a season-opening victory, but not particularly thrilled with how they played.
"Horrible," junior forward Rekalin Sims said of UK's defensive effort. "They scored at will. We gambled a lot and that led to baskets on the break for them. We need to be more patient and play with some poise. I'm disappointed we didn't come ready to play."
UK, which has garnered a reputation as one of the nation's nastiest defensive teams, seems to still be feeling its way around on the court without old stand-bys Chuck Hayes and Kelenna Azubuike. Such a transition is to be expected, but that doesn't mean the Cats are willing to accept the way they played.
"We are still trying to learn to trust each other," senior guard Ravi Moss said. "When you learn to trust each other, you know where the other guy is going to be. It's like football, you have to believe he is there to back you up. It's not there yet, but it's just the first game. We'll start understanding it."
In the meantime, the Cats got a sensational performance from sophomore point guard Rajon Rondo. After looking disinterested in the Cats' final exhibition game, Rondo played like the All-American candidate he is in all phases of the game. When the dust settled, Rondo had scored 17 points, hauled in 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and produced six steals.
"His all-around play was outstanding," Smith said. "He was all over the place defensively. He was creating a lot of problems. He logged a lot of minutes, but we needed him out there."
Rondo's play certainly caught the attention of the Jackrabbits, who looked overwhelmed by his quickness to the basketball. Otherwise, South Dakota State did not seem overly dazed by Kentucky's stature or the atmosphere in Rupp Arena, although Jackrabbits' coach Scott Nagy didn't see it that way. He flatly rejected the notion that his team should be satisfied with the final outcome.
"Give me any coach worth his salt and there is no way he's happy to lose by 17 points," Nagy said. "We didn't play well and some of that had to do with Kentucky. I thought we played afraid.
"Our kids tried so hard to prove they were ready to play and not afraid. During the starting lineups they were jumping around and out of their minds. We were overly jacked and couldn't play."
The jitters showed early as South Dakota State missed 16 of the first 17 shots it took. Typically that would bury a team in Rupp Arena, but UK was struggling as well and built only a 14-2 lead over the same span. Neither team ever really got on track offensively (UK shot just 38.8 percent), but Jackrabbits' forward Ben Beran burned the Cats for 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
Leading just 37-24 at the half, Smith went with a small lineup in the second half, putting Rekalin Sims and Sheray Thomas in the frontcourt. The Cats pushed the lead to 50-31 in the first four minutes, but could never put the Jackrabbits away after that.
"I wish we could have played better basketball," Smith said.
Rondo's big game was aided by Sims, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. Thomas added six points and six rebounds, while Moss had six points and five boards.
Rekalin Sims shoots
Bobby Perry eludes the South Dakota State defender