- Tuesday, January 16 2007 -
Kentucky - 87 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 25th by AP and NR by ESPN/USA Today]
South Carolina - 49 (Head Coach: Dave Odom) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, South Carolina 27
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|Mississippi State 64 - 60|||||Vanderbilt 67 - 72|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK gives Carolina best 'shots' in rout
COLUMBIA, S. Car. - Coming off what Tubby Smith termed a 'step back' Kentucky made one giant leap forward in response to its coach's criticism, turning in its biggest Southeastern Conference road win in 11 seasons.
The Cats shot 62.5 percent in demolishing South Carolina 87-49 at The Colonial Center, the largest margin away of victory away from home since ravaging Tennessee by 40 during the 1996 national championship season. UK never trailed after making its first five three-pointers and coasted in a devastatingly efficient second half. The win was UK's 11th straight and improved its record to 15-3 overall and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
"We didn't want to be the team that lost to them," junior Joe Crawford said. "They had lost three in a row and what better way (to end the streak) than by beating Kentucky, so we had to put them away early."
UK made sure this one was over early, knocking home its first five three-point attempts as South Carolina tried to hide its lack of a post presence by playing zone. Of the Cats' first six made field goals five were threes, including three by Crawford. By the time UK missed its first shot from deep Ð a Michael Porter attempt nearly nine minutes into the game Ð it already held a 17-8 lead that never dipped below five again.
The three-point barrage at the outset seemed to be the beginning of a scorching hot effort from the Cats, but to hear them tell the story it began earlier in the day at the team shoot-around. It didn't take long for the players to become infatuated with The Colonial Center rims and it showed in the best shooting effort UK has put on since connecting at a 64.2 percent clip against Eastern Kentucky in 2003.
"In the shoot-around we fell in love with the rims," junior guard Ramel Bradley, who made 5-of-7 three-pointers, said. "It's funny because the first two years I was here I didn't like this place."
Crawford, who scored 17 first half points and tied his career high of 23 points for the second time in four games, got a big grin when discussing the shooting situation in the Gamecocks' arena.
"I loved the rims," Crawford said. "It seemed like I couldn't miss anything. I made like four threes in a row (in shoot-around).
"I was fortunate. I was open so I had to hit the shots. Randolph (Morris) draws a lot of attention so it makes it a lot easier on me."
It seems like everything has come easier to Crawford since SEC play opened. The junior is averaging 20.3 points, shooting 63 percent from the field and a scalding 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from beyond the arc.
Not that Crawford wanted to be reminded.
"I don't want to hear about the percentages," Crawford said with a grin and shake of the head. "It's bad luck."
UK didn't need luck against South Carolina, which had been spanked by Georgia and Florida by an average of 29.5 points its last two outings. The Gamecocks have virtually no answer on either end of the floor after point guard Tre'' Kelley and he has been hobbled by a knee injury. Point in case, Kelley's 19 points came on 7-of-12 shooting while the rest of his teammates scored 30 points on 8-of-44 from the field, including a 19.2 percent clip in the second half when Kelley watched from the bench.
"A guy like Kelley will get his points so the best thing you can do is contain him, get out on their shooters and make them beat you," Bradley said.
The Cats also showed a maturity that was lacking last season by answering Smith's challenge of playing better than they did in a close victory over Mississippi State at home the previous time out. Smith wanted his team to avoid playing to the level of its competition or getting complacent because of the long winning streak.
"Even though we got the win (against Mississippi State) we did a lot of things wrong," Bradley said. "We had to find a way to fix them."
Smith certainly seemed satisfied.
"You are always worried about how we look at a game and not looking past, but I thought out guys showed respect for South Carolina by the way we played," Smith said. "I thought the guys were very attentive in film study Sunday and giving them a day of rest and going through the entire film really helped a lot.
We've got a very unselfish group of guys and I like the way they are playing as a team. When you're winning that always helps, its helps your attitude and their disposition."
No one is feeling it more than Crawford, who even had a slip of the tongue after the game when asked if he missed the chance to break his career high.
"Hopefully I can get my career high against Florida," Crawford said. "I probably shouldn't have said that."
It was the only misstep the kid has made recently.
Ramel Bradley (#3) looks to make a play
Joe Crawford (#32) slides in ahead of USC's Brandon Wallace
Randolph Morris (#33) watches the ball sail out of bounds