- Tuesday, December 6 2005 -
Kentucky - 73 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 15th by AP and 15th by ESPN/USA Today]
Georgia State - 46 (Head Coach: Michael Perry) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 30, Georgia State 24
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|North Carolina 79 - 83|||||Indiana 53 - 79|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Alleyne's Career Nights helps Cats stand tall
ATLANTA - Tubby Smith had spent much of Kentucky's first seven games begging for his team to show any signs of doing the things he holds dear on a basketball court Ð rebound, score in the post and shut opponents down defensively.
Smith might finally sleep a little better after the Cats rewarded him with all three components in a 73-46 rout of Georgia State in front of 8,154 fans at Philips Arena. In the home off the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks, UK's 7-footers played to their size, led by Shagari Alleyne's career night.
Alleyne, who has spent much of the early part of the year in Smith's doghouse for repeated academic issues, returned to good graces by scoring a career-high 16 points, while adding six rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in 24 extremely productive minutes.
"I wish he had stayed in Tubby's doghouse," Georgia State coach Michael Perry said. "He chose tonight to come out. He was the difference in the game."
Alleyne's performance satisfied Ð if for only one night Ð Smith's call to arms by the post players. The Cats' offensive has often been stagnant without any post up threat, leaving the guards to try and do too much. Smith noted how his team basically had just given up on trying to play the inside-out game he teaches, which had to be changed after UK was upset by North Carolina.
"We finally threw the ball inside," Smith said. "We made a conscious effort to make sure the ball went inside. We only threw it in there 12 times against North Carolina. That will never happen again, even if it takes total changes in our perimeter guys."
Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Rajon Rondo, UK was trying to erase the emotional toll remaining from the Carolina loss just three days before when Smith was left shaking his head at his team. As Rondo sat on the end of the bench in a tan suit, sophomore guard Joe Crawford returned from an injured knee and hip and Alleyne emerged from near oblivion to spark a team in desperate need of finding an identity.
Of course, it took four minutes before UK could do much of anything right. Georgia State raced out of the gate to an 11-0 lead by the first media timeout. Smith had started Patrick Sparks, Bobby Perry, Ravi Moss, Lukasz Obrzut and Sheray Thomas, but yanked all five when the Cats came out of the break. It wasn't so much that UK was down 11 Ð the Cats were 0-of-6 from the field - but more about how the Cats got there that had Smith seething yet again.
"The score is important, but I was worried about if we were executing and defending," Smith said. "To be honest, I was not too pleased with that. You can't play basketball when you want to or just when things are going well. You have to play even harder when shots aren't going."
Immediately out of the break, UK missed two shots in close, but finally broke through on that same possession when Alleyne dunked off a pass from Crawford. The bucket sparked a 22-3 streak by the Cats, including eight points from Alleyne that put UK in control.
"I think we provided a lot of energy and we made shots," sophomore guard Ramel Bradley said of the second group. "It was a big confidence boost. With Rajon out, guys stepped up to the plate. Coach (Smith) was pleased with the defensive end and the way we rebounded. Those were the points he'd been trying to make.
UK shattered what had become conventional thinking that this particular edition of the Cats was just too soft on the court. Smith had lamented the day before the game that he had too many "nice" players, but the Cats played meaner than they had all season, dominating the glass 45-23 and scoring 32 points in the paint. UK also connected on 12 of its 14 free throw attempts after entering the game with a 60.9 percent mark.
"If we can continue to build on the rebounding and free throw shooting we can be a pretty good team," Smith said.
While those issues appeared solved for a game, the bigger stories were obviously Alleyne and Crawford's emergence. Lost in the understandable hoopla of Alleyne's effort was Crawford's return. The sophomore had missed UK's previous three games, but returned with 14 points (tying a career high), seven rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. Although still slowed by the injuries, he looked more like the player UK thought it got when he signed out of Detroit.
"I didn't think I'd play that good," Crawford said. "I was just trying to help the team out."
Smith admitted UK missed Crawford more than he had previously let on.
"When a guy comes off an injury he usually plays within himself because he doesn't try to do too much," Smith said. "It slows you down and allows you to play.
"You see what we were missing. He was a big lift for the team."
Thanks to the heavy lifting of Alleyne and Crawford, UK finally got a better indication of what type of team it can be.
Shagari Alleyne shoots over Justin Billingslea
Rekalin Sims attempts a hook over Deven Dickerson