- Wednesday, February 22 2006 -
Mississippi - 40 (Head Coach: Roderick Barnes) - [Unranked]
|Brian Smith (*)||12||0||3||0||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0||1||1||0|
Kentucky - 80 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 40, Mississippi 17
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|South Carolina 79 - 66|||||Louisiana State 67 - 71|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
LeMaster lights up Rupp in blowout win
Maybe there is something to this Throwback Week after all.
Preston LeMaster, the son of former Rupp Runt Jim LeMaster, came off the Kentucky bench and scored a career-high 12 points (just three of his career total) as the Cats blistered Ole Miss 80-40 in Rupp Arena. It was the biggest Southeastern Conference victory for UK since a 62-point drubbing of Vanderbilt on Senior Day 2003.
The Cats dominated from the outset, using a 21-4 run in the first half to take a 31-12 lead with 3:54 left. LeMaster, who was just 3-of-12 in his four-year career from three-point range, swished two long range bombs in the spurt to ignite the Rupp crowd. The senior's dream night had his teammates signing his praises after the game.
"To be here four years and then have a breakout game like this, that's just unbelievable," junior forward Bobby Perry said. "(Preston) does it all the time in practice. I think he's the best shooter on the team by far. Every time he lets it go in practice you think it's going in."
In a season that has seen more strange twists and turns than any in recent memory, the Cats' 18th victory of the year was the most improbable. The 40-point shellacking represented a margin of victory 33 points higher than any other Southeastern Conference home win this year.
As surprising as the margin of victory was, seeing LeMaster and fellow seldom-used senior Brandon Stockton both score career highs in the same game left many reveling fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
"This was a lot of fun," LeMaster said. "I've dreamed forever just to get out there and play. After four years of hard work and dedication it finally happened. It felt really good."
LeMaster, a 6-foot-2 walk-on from Bourbon County, stroked his first triple from the left corner off a feed from Rajon Rondo with 13:09 showing on the clock. He swished another in transition less than three minutes later to give UK a 21-10 lead. Already having set a career high, LeMaster touched nothing but nylon with two more bombs in the second half before finally rattling out his fifth attempt.
"As a shooter when you hit that first one you think you'll have a good game," LeMaster said.
"When he's the scout team shooter he's the most feared guy to guard," sophomore guard Joe Crawford said. "He makes most of the ones he puts up."
The shots did more than just provide the ammunition for a feel good story, the lit the fuse in Rupp Arena and energized both the crowd and UK's players. That spelled doom for an Ole Miss squad forced to play without its best player after a death in family. Sophomore forward Dwayne Curtis, who averages 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, was in Chicago after his brother tragically passed away.
"You can tell they were really not focused," UK coach Tubby Smith said of the Rebels. "Something like that can really put a damper on young people. It's a bittersweet win because you could tell they were really struggling."
That didn't stop UK from having a blast at Ole Miss' expense. The Cats' advantage continued to balloon throughout the game, reaching 44 with 4:58 remaining when Rekalin Sims scored on a short bank shots. When freshman center Jared Carter scored on a put back to cap UK's scoring it represented the 13th player to break into the scoring column.
"When you play the right way and win usually everyone is happy," Smith said.
The players concurred, admitting a victory like this after a long, trying season can put the jumper cables on UK's battery.
"We had a lot of fun," Perry said. "We played excellent team ball and when you do that and play great defense, you'll feel good."
Nearly lost in the hoopla surrounding Leaser's shooting performance and Rondo's 12 assists Ð the most by a UK player since Allen Edwards had 12 against South Carolina in 1998 Ð was the Cats' defensive effort. UK held Ole Miss to 22.4 percent shooting (13-of-58), the lowest ever for a SEC opponent in the shot clock era (1984-85 season).
"Our effort was excellent," Smith said. "When you hold a team to 22 percent, I don't care who it is, you're doing a good job. My hat's off to the kids. The emphasis on details has been really beneficial."
Still, this night belonged to LeMaster.
"I can't say enough about Preston," Smith said. "He busts his tail every day in practice as a walk-on. When you see someone that everyone is pulling for, who hadn't had a chance to step up like that, we can all identify with that."
Preston LeMaster makes like Kyle Macy
Jared Carter battles under the boards
Rajon Rondo (#4) drives