- Tuesday, November 28 2006 -
Coll. of Charleston - 61 (Head Coach: Bobby Cremins) - [Unranked]
|Tony White, Jr.||19||3||10||2||8||4||4||1||1||2||0||1||0||0||3||12|
Kentucky - 77 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 27, College of Charleston 15
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Memphis 63 - 80|||||North Carolina 63 - 75|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK muddles past Charleston with defense
Smarting from two disappointing defeats in the Hawaiian Islands Kentucky returned home to the Bluegrass needing a feel-good victory based in a heavy coat of defensive suffocation.
Although not the dominating performance the Cats were looking for they will certainly draw from the positives their 77-61 win over College of Charleston can bring after consecutive losses. While the offense sputtered for much of the game, especially early, the defensive effort was much improved over the matador showing at the Maui Invitational.
"The defense (in this game) was the way we have to play," senior forward Sheray Thomas said. "We have to get back to playing hard-nosed, aggressive defense. We have to get back to that.
"(The coaches) gave us tough love. Coach said, 'We will not have any more of that. This is how we are going to play.' We went back to our defensive principles."
To drive his point home, Smith spent the bulk of three days of practice focusing almost solely on the defensive end of the floor. By the night before the game he wanted to see how much his team retained since their return from Maui and passed out a written exam to gauge their attention span. It caught the players off guard but also proved Smith was serious about fixing the issues.
"Coach will pull out anything if he thinks it will help his players," junior guard Ramel Bradley said. "It was all for the best. It was basic principles of basketball. Symbols for passing, where guys were supposed to be.
"Maybe he was trying to get us back in a school groove since we had been in the hot sun (in Maui)."
Perhaps that sun and more than 20 hours of flying had the Cats in the doldrums early. Nothing came easy for the Cats, who fell behind 11-6 nearly 10 minutes into the game as they missed 11 of their first 13 shots from the field and had not a single offensive rebound. The Cougars weren't faring much better (4-of-16) but had flustered the sluggish Cats into bad shots and six turnovers.
That's when the game turned on defense. UK didn't exactly scorch the nets the rest of the half but they turned in a 21-4 spurt to end the half, holding College of Charleston without a point for more than a seven-minute stretch.
Perry Stevenson, who lost his starting role to Thomas, keyed the wake-up call by corralling a Jodie Meeks miss and dunking, hauling in another miss that set up a Bradley jumper, scoring on a nifty reverse in the paint and then showing off a sweet spin move and reverse on the block. The freshman rebounded from a disappointing showing in Maui by notching a career-high 14 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting and adding four rebounds in just 16 minutes.
"Perry played excellent," Smith said. "We started Sheray because I felt like we needed that physical presence but he's not the athlete Perry is. Perry was more efficient than in Maui. He got his legs back."
It appeared as though it took most of the Cats a good warm-up period before they got the motor sufficiently revved up, perhaps a by-product of their long sojourn to Maui. Still, the defensive effort was stellar all things considered as they held the Cougars to 23 percent shooting in the first half and just 31.9 percent for the game.
There were still areas for concern however. The Cats allowed 19 offensive rebounds to Charleston that resulted in 19 points. UK also turned the basketball over 20 times, raising their average on the season to 15.5 a game.
"I thought we tried some passes we shouldn't have, did some things we shouldn't have," Smith said. "We have to get our guards doing a better job of taking care of the basketball."
The Cougars gave UK one final assault, slashing a 20-point lead to 11 on a Dontaye Draper four-point play with 12:12 remaining, but the Cats responded with a lightning-quick 14-0 jaunt that put the game out of reach and cruised from there.
Randolph Morris led the Cats with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Joe Crawford added 15 points and five rebounds, plus two applause-worthy hustle plays. UK also saw sophomore center Jared Carter return from a dislocated shoulder and produce four rebounds in just eight minutes of action.
Perry Stevenson dunks
Mark Coury with a 4-point flurry