- Tuesday, December 19 2006 -
Santa Clara - 60 (Head Coach: Dick Davey) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 74 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 30, Santa Clara 28
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Louisville 61 - 49|||||Massachusetts 82 - 68|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats buck Broncos for fourth straight win
Tubby Smith cautioned his team against having a letdown after scoring a tough victory over rival Louisville and although Kentucky wasn't exactly overpowering, the Cats bucked a scrappy Santa Clara squad for a 74-60 victory.
Credit Randolph Morris for doing most of the damage. The junior center rebounded from his foul-plagued afternoon in Louisville to post 23 points and a career-high 13 rebounds, the third double-double he has produced this season.
"Anytime you can play more than three minutes it's great," Morris said with a chuckle. "The coaches made it known that they weren't looking to trap at all. I just need to take my time and make good decisions."
The Cats' game plan was clearly to get it to Morris early and often despite Santa Clara having two behemoths in the post. After seeing double teams virtually all season Morris was surprised to see the Broncos play him straight up and after initially hesitating he began taking control in the paint. The Cats' leading scorer and rebounder had 15 points by halftime and added nine rebounds after intermission.
"The first time I got the ball in the paint I hesitated because I was waiting for the trap to come," Morris said. "When it didn't I almost didn't know what to do."
"Randolph really carried the load for us again," UK coach Tubby Smith added. "We found him inside and he was able to deliver."
It was a good thing Morris was tuned in because most of the other starters struggled on the offensive end yet again. Bobby Perry and Joe Crawford combined to shoot 2-of-10 in mostly inconsequential performances. Ramel Bradley scored 14 points and had five assists but missed 10 of his 14 shots from the field and often seemed to be hunting his shot more than he was looking for teammates.
Perry's problems have been especially exasperating because they have come after he moved back to power forward, a position he is much more comfortable with. Instead of flourishing, Perry has gone 0-of-9 from the field and corralled just six rebounds the last two games.
"We've got to get Bobby playing better," Smith said. "We've talked to him about going to the basket but he pivots away from the basket every time. I've yet to see him pivot to the basket. It's probably all in his head now. Hopefully he'll break out of it and get back to himself."
Santa Clara, who had already knocked off Stanford and Utah this season, jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead as the Cats (8-3) sputtered out of the gate. UK recovered on the strength of its bench and ultimately took the lead for good at 24-23 late in the first half. By the time the first half ended UK had held the Broncos to 31.3 percent shooting, the 11th consecutive half in which its opponent was under 40 percent.
That string was finally snapped in the second half when Santa Clara connected on 40.6 percent of its shots. The Broncos hit six of their first 11 shots in the second half to close within 44-43 with just under 14 minutes remaining but the Cats clamped down on defense, extended the lead and then held Santa Clara at bay the rest of the game.
"We really are doing a good job defensively," Smith said. "We've been defending ever since Maui.
"We had a few breakdowns in transition and they got some easy baskets when we tried to press in the second half. They missed some open shots but we were really ball-hawking in the second half and got them to rush some shots."
UK's defensive effort was not lost on Santa Clara coach Dick Davey.
"I think its pretty apparent Tubby's kids played awful hard defensively," Davey said. "Tubby's team has been one the rise. It seems like every game they are getting better."
While the Cats sent the 21,961 souls at Rupp Arena home happy, not all of them were pleased with their own efforts. In fact, Bradley spent most of the walk from the locker room to the court before the second half encouraging his teammates to turn up their intensity.
"We're Kentucky," Bradley said. "Not to say that in a cocky way, but a confident way. We have to be aggressive. We didn't start the game like that. That's how our mindset should be."
It certainly was Morris' state of mind. The Cats can thank goodness for that.
Ramon Harris has been a part of the UK basketball team for just five days but he was inserted into the game midway through the first half, thus ensuring he would not redshirt this season despite his late arrival.
Harris, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward from Alaska, checked in with 9:00 on the clock and was greeted with a hearty round of applause from the Rupp Arena faithful. Unfortunately, his appearance was shorter than Danny DeVito when he was pulled 47 seconds later by Smith after getting burned defensively. He did not see action in the second half.
"I wanted him to get a feel for Rupp Arena," Smith said. "We ran a few plays and he didn't really know what to do so that's why we had to get him right back out."
The lack of knowledge was understandable given his limited practice time to this point.
Randolph Morris fights for the ball
Michael Porter shoots in traffic