- Tuesday, December 5 2006 -
(at Louisville, KY)
Kentucky - 79 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Tenn-Chattanooga - 63 (Head Coach: John Shulman) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 45, UT-Chattanooga 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|North Carolina 63 - 75|||||Indiana 59 - 54|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
New look Cats take care of Mocs
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tubby Smith hinted there might be changes coming for a Kentucky team that had struggled out of the gate this season. Hoping to find a spark, or at least an answer to Kentucky's turnover woes, Smith shook up his starting lineup and authorized a speed up in the Cats' pace of play.
The jury is still out on whether the Cats will ultimately play more refined basketball as the year progresses but UK did utilize a faster pace to run past Chattanooga 75-63 in its annual 'home' game in Louisville's Freedom Hall.
As suggested Smith made good on his idea to move freshman point guard Derrick Jasper into the starting lineup, sliding Ramel Bradley to the shooting guard, Joe Crawford to the wing and Bobby Perry to power forward. The new starting five produced a quick start as Smith barked orders from the sideline for them to push the basketball up the floor at every chance.
There will still turnover issues though, as the Cats mishandled the ball eight times in the first 12 minutes and 20 times in the game, the sixth time they have had at least 15 miscues this season. But the three-guard lineup seemed to allow Bradley and Perry to find a comfort zone in their new roles, as the two both had their best offensive performance of the season. Bradley posted a career-high 23 points and six three-pointers made while Perry ended a shooting slump by hitting 7-of-8 shots for 17 points.
"I came into the game knowing I wanted to be more aggressive," Bradley, who had been slumping recently, said. "I hadn't been as aggressive as I should have been. When I'm playing my game things work out a lot better. I can't wait for the game to come to me. I can't lay back. I felt like I wasn't really on the court."
It seemed like all of the Cats veteran starters took turns sparking the team. Morris shot out of the gate with six points by the first media timeout, then Bradley buried three consecutive triples after Chattanooga had sliced the UK lead to 25-21. The quartet of Morris, Crawford, Bradley and Perry scored 46 consecutive points from midway through the first half to the 14:18 mark of the second.
By that point the Cats had opened up a robust 63-36 advantage and has a smallish crowd of 11,641 fans roaring in the old barn at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Of course, nothing has come easy for UK thus far this season and this game was no different. Chattanooga jumped on the Cats' subs, then used UK's lack of focus and attention to the referees to gain momentum. Before the crowd knew it the Mocs had ripped off a 26-8 run on the strength of Keddric Mays' shooting -- he had 25 points on 7-of-15 from deep -- to pull within 71-62 with 4:13 remaining.
"Give them credit," Bradley said. "They're a tough group of guys and they didn't back down. But we can't have those mental lapses."
"We have to concentrate," Morris added. "One of our weaknesses has been not putting teams away and not keeping them down. We've got to play hard and keep the pressure on."
Needing to make a play, Bradley and Crawford stepped to the forefront yet again. Crawford swished a three-pointer from the top of the key with 3:42 left and Bradley followed suit from the same spot 40 seconds later to push the lead to 15 and dash Chattanooga's hopes.
It wasn't the walkover victory UK had hoped for, but Smith saw positives in the performance, especially Jasper, who finished with 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.
"We advanced," Smith said. "We got better. That's all we're trying to do."
The Cats might have also found a new lineup and style of play.
Joe Crawford (#32) drives
Ramel Bradley (#3) shoots
Derrick Jasper attempts a shot while defended by Chattanooga's Bernard Lowndes