- Tuesday, November 29 2005 -
High Point - 55 (Head Coach: Bart Lundy) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 75 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 10th by AP and 10th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, High Point 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Liberty 81 - 51|||||North Carolina 79 - 83|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Rondo & Reserves Key Second Half Spurt
Tubby Smith voiced his concern about keeping his Kentucky team focused on High Point with North Carolina looking later in the week. It appeared Smith may not have gotten through to his team until halftime, as the Cats turned a close game into a convincing 75-55 victory.
The Cats turned on the jets after halftime, using a 26-9 run midway through the second stanza to push the lead out to 64-42. The run was keyed by another brilliant performance by Rajon Rondo, who finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. It was Rondo's third double-double of the season.
Even with the Cats' dominant second half, there were plenty of signs UK was not focused early on. Missed shots, turnovers and a failure to block out High Point on the glass had the Cats facing a 26-24 deficit late in the first half before a 10-0 run gave UK the lead for good.
"One of the things we told (the players) was that High Point wouldn't back down," Smith said. "If we didn't do a good job running with them, we'd have a long night and was a long first half.
"We were doing nothing in the first half. They were getting easy buckets and we were doing nothing. They were going by us like we weren't there. We just did a poor job of helping and recovering."
Like he did at halftime of the Liberty game, Smith read his team the riot act in the locker room. Smith was particularly unpleased with yet another slow start by the Cats and their lack of toughness, which showed in being outrebounded at the break.
"He was upset," Rondo said. "About like the Liberty game. Our toughness was lacking again. We came out sluggish at the beginning and we have to start getting better at that. We have to get guys ready to go from the jump."
The game started to go more as planned in the second half, as UK grabbed the first nine rebounds after the break and pushed the lead out to 10. Still, Smith was looking to send a message and his unhappiness led to a nearly five-minute stretch in the second half with a lineup that featured Brandon Stockton, Preston LeMaster, Jared Carter, Ramel Bradley and both Sheray Thomas or Bobby Perry. The unit extended the lead from nine to 16 during their time on the floor before the starters returned.
"I got that feeling," LeMaster said of Smith searching for something. "He knows we are experienced and that's a key."
The message hit home, at least with some Cats.
"Coach always stressed toughness," Bradley said. "He probably felt like some guys weren't playing with a lot of heart and he had us five out there because he knew we would. Toughness is all about heart and we can bring that."
Despite some of the lackluster moments, UK once again played a defensive game worthy of praise with the exception of the job High Point guard Arizona Reid did on the Cats. Reid dropped career highs of 29 points and 16 rebounds on the Cats and made 12-of-19 shots, but the rest of the Panthers connected on just 10-of-43 field goals and the team as a whole made only one three-pointer in 19 attempts.
"For the most part, I felt like they couldn't guard me," Reid said. "But they did a better job in the second half and they stopped letting us get easier looks.
"They are a pretty good team. They are a Top 10 team in the nation. (Rondo) does everything. In my opinion, he's the best point guard in the nation. He's outstanding."
Rondo and Bradley led UK with 14 points each, while Patrick Sparks added 13 points and four assists. Center Lukasz Obrzut also had the best game of any post player to date, scoring nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and adding four rebounds in 14 minutes.
Bobby Perry makes a move