- Saturday, November 24 2007 -
Texas Southern - 35 (Head Coach: Robert Moreland) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 83 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||23||2||2||0||0||1||3||3||3||6||1||1||0||1||5||5|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 43, Texas Southern 18
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Liberty 80 - 54|||||Stony Brook 62 - 52|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
There were days in his youth basketball career when Joe Crawford could probably have taken on entire teams by himself and still ruled the court because of his natural ability. Now he's figuring out there is a pride in earning it the old-fashioned way.
Crawford made the first start of his senior season and took full advantage of the opportunity, pouring in a career-high 32 points and adding six rebounds in Kentucky's 83-35 demolition of Texas Southern. Having finally impressed UK coach Billy Gillispie enough to reap the reward of starting, Crawford exploded for 10 of the Cats' first 15 points and never looked back on either end of the floor.
"I think I played better on defensive and focused more on offense and knocked down the open shots I got," Crawford said. "When I'm open I'm going to shoot it, that's what Coach tells me. He's even taken me out of practice sometimes when I'm not ready to shoot so when I'm open, take it and don't think about it."
The 6-foot-5 guard had seemingly been Gillispie's favorite whipping boy in the early part of the season, a target because he was trying to round himself into shape after knee surgery earlier in the fall and also because the coach knows how important a motivated and focused Crawford is to UK's chances this season.
Crawford didn't disappoint in his bid to convince Gillispie he's pulled it together. When he exited the game for good with 3:41 remaining he had outscored Texas Southern by himself, a 32-30 lead for the Detroit native. The 32 points broke his previous high of 29 that came in a loss at Georgia last season.
"He played well," Gillispie said. "He's practicing better and he's starting to earn that opportunity."
Texas Southern coach Robert Moreland was far more impressed with Crawford's effort, and the Cats' as a whole. The Tigers were held to 35 points, the lowest point total for a UK opponent since Morehead State tallied 32 in 1995, and shot just 20.8 percent.
"I guess now we have been introduced to Kentucky basketball," Moreland said. "We were served up and the feast was on.
"It seemed like (Crawford) was everywhere. We knew he would be. He was extremely impressive."
The Cats' ability to stay focused throughout the rout was equally impressive. A 25-point halftime lead mushroomed to as many as 53 before the Tigers eventually bowed out by 48. It was the largest margin of victory since UK defeated Vanderbilt by 62 near the end of the 2002-03 season.
Still, Gillispie wasn't totally pleased. He took nearly 25 minutes to make it to the post game press conference in part because he was going over all five of Texas Southern's second half field goals with his team.
"We don't like to give up a basket," Gillispie said. "It's not the first time I've done that. We don't like to give up any baskets. I think you have to take that kind of approach because one basket is going to determine a lot of games and you can't not be ready when the ball is out of bounds. All of those individual things will determine the outcome of the game if we allow them to happen so it's a learning situation."
For one night at least, Crawford's individual things earned him the reprieve he'd been looking for from his new coach.
Patrick Patterson with a breakaway dunk
A.J. Stewart battles inside
Mark Coury does the dirty work