Sunday, February 14, 1999

KENTUCKY 74, SOUTH CAROLINA 40


UK states case with defense

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky basketball is all about benevolence. Assists here, alley-oops there. Chest bumps. Group hugs.

        But after its 0-2 sojourn to begin February — the worst road trip since National Lampoon's Vacation — concern had set in. Is UK too unselfish? Can nice guys finish first?

        Saturday, kindness didn't kill them. The eighth-ranked Wildcats stormed past South Carolina 74-40 at Rupp Arena, spreading their scoring like Valentines in an elementary classroom.

        In a season in which headlines have scolded them as “Smith's sissies” and talk-show callers have questioned their heart, the Wildcats quieted critics by clamping down on defense.

        “We're not a great offensive team, so we have to concentrate on stopping people as best we can,” UK coach Tubby Smith said.

        With concerns building about its offense, UK (20-6, 9-3 Southeast ern Conference) shot 50 percent and totaled 16 assists with a season-low 10 turnovers.

        But the story Saturday was how it held the Gamecocks (7-17, 2-10) to 40 points, the least allowed by UK in two seasons.

        South Carolina's .246 shooting was its second-lowest of the season and the second-lowest by a UK opponent this winter.

        “We've got to be able to rely on our defense,” UK senior point guard Wayne Turner said. “Defensive teams are going to be there at the end.”

        This year and last, UK has been

        a balanced bunch offensively. Jeff Sheppard's 13.7-point scoring average last season was the lowest to lead UK in 50 years. Heshimu Evans' 11.9-point average this season is on pace to be the lowest leader in 52 years.

        The plus side is balance, as UK has four double-figure scorers: Evans, Scott Padgett (11.7), Michael Bradley (11.7) and Turner (10.0).

        It hasn't had that many in a season since 1990-91, when five Wildcats averaged double figures in a 22-6 campaign.

        Saturday was typical, as five Wildcats reached double figures, and Tayshaun Prince (eight points) just missed being a sixth.

        Padgett was the leading scorer, with 13 points.

        A check of the record books shows championship teams usually have at least one “go-to” scorer.

        Could balance be a bad thing?

        “I'm not sure,” Evans said. “It's good when you win by 25. It all depends how the game is going.

        “We can all be go-to players. If a player is feeling it, we'll get it to him.”

        Said Smith: “We want balance. Most teams just have one main scorer — look at South Carolina with BJ McKie — but that's not going to win a lot of games for you.”

        UK averages 75.1 points per game, only sixth-best in the SEC.

        Unselfishness shows up in the stats, as UK ranks second in the SEC in assists per game (16.6), making passes that lead to a league-best .474 field-goal percentage.

        But the scoring has been, well, hit and miss.

        “We don't have the weapons we had in the past, the great outside shooting like with a Jeff Sheppard or a Cameron Mills,” Smith said.

        “I'm not concerned about our offense. I'm just saying we're not a great offensive team.”

        Perhaps a leader will emerge, the way Sheppard did in saving UK at the Final Four last year. A hand could get hot.

        “With balance, the defense has to focus on all of us,” Turn er said. “They don't know where the scoring's going to come from.”

        No one does. For better or worse.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (40)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Gallman         31   1-9   0-0   3-6  0  3    2
Lucas           21  2-10   0-0   3-4  0  1    5
Johnson         24   1-2   2-2   2-7  0  2    4
Mckie           29  5-12   2-2   0-2  0  0   13
Nix             12   0-2   2-2   0-3  1  2    2
Kinloch         24   2-8   0-0   2-5  0  3    4
Grant           23   3-7   0-0   3-7  2  1    6
Davis            7   0-2   0-0   1-1  1  0    0
Rouse           14   0-4   0-0   0-0  1  0    0
Ross             8   1-3   1-2   2-2  0  0    4
Bradley          7   0-2   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 15-61   7-8 16-37  5 12   40
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.246, FT-.875. 3-Point Goals:
3-20, .150 (Lucas 1-6, Mckie 1-3, Nix 0-1, Grant
0-3, Davis 0-2, Rouse 0-1, Ross 1-2, Bradley
0-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 1 (Mckie).
Turnovers: 19 (Lucas 5, Grant 3, Kinloch 3,
Gallman 2, Mckie 2, Davis, Johnson, Nix, Rouse).
Steals: 4 (Grant 2, Gallman, Mckie).


KENTUCKY (74)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Evans           18  4-12   1-2   1-4  1  3   10
Padgett         23  6-10   0-0   3-6  3  1   13
Bradley         19   5-6   1-4   0-1  1  3   11
Turner          23   5-8   0-0   0-3  3  1   11
Allison         23   1-4   0-0   0-3  1  1    3
Magloire        19   4-5   2-3   0-1  2  2   10
Hogan           10   1-3   0-0   0-0  1  1    3
Prince          22   3-6   1-2   2-6  2  1    8
Camara          17   1-2   0-0   3-7  1  1    2
Smith           12   1-2   0-0   0-0  1  1    3
Blevins          8   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Tackett          4   0-2   0-0   0-2  0  0    0
Masiello         2   0-1   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 31-62  5-11 10-34 16 15   74
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.500, FT-.455. 3-Point Goals:
7-28, .250 (Evans 1-7, Padgett 1-4, Turner 1-2,
Allison 1-3, Hogan 1-3, Prince 1-4, Smith 1-2,
Blevins 0-1, Tackett 0-1, Masiello 0-1). Team
rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: 8 (Magloire 3,
Bradley 2, Evans, Padgett, Prince). Turnovers: 10
(Smith 2, Allison, Blevins, Camara, Magloire,
Masiello, Padgett, Prince, Turner). Steals: 11
(Turner 3, Padgett 2, Prince 2, Allison, Bradley,
Camara, Magloire).
__________________________________
South Carolina     23   17  -   40
Kentucky           33   41  -   74
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 23,889. Officials:
John Clougherty, Tom Lopes, Mike Stuart.

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