Friday, March 19, 1999

UK NOTEBOOK


3-point shooting stronger

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST.LOUIS — Two weeks ago, this Kentucky team seemed certain to become the worst group of three-point shooters in school history. But the Wildcats have shot well enough this postseason that they might escape that fate.

        Their percentage from five postseason games, 45.7 percent, is a giant improvement on their 31.2-percent shooting earlier this winter. The postseason pace has raised UK's overall three-point mark to 33.3 percent, which is within range of the previous worst for a season, the 33.8 percent UK shot in 1990-91.

        “We're shooting with more confidence,” UK sophomore guard Saul Smith said. “We're not taking bad shots, not rushing things.

        “Our post game has been consistent, which opens it up outside. And because we're hitting them, they can't double-team us down low.”

        A big factor has been senior point guard Wayne Turner's penetration. He has been more aggressive driving inside, often drawing defenders and then kicking a pass out for open three-pointers.

        “We're screening a lot better,” Turner said. “When we go inside and back outside, we get a lot better looks and better spacing. The guys are feeling more confident and making the shots.”

        Turner also has improved his own shooting. He made just five three-pointers in the regular season but already has seven in the postseason.

        “The play of our interior players all year long has helped us,” UK coach Tubby Smith said. “You're able to get good shots by being able to break people down in penetration.”

        Scott Padgett has made 56 percent of his postseason threes, up from 34.7 percent in the regular season. Sophomore Ryan Hogan has made 62.5 percent, up from 34.5.

        UK brings three bombers off its bench: Hogan, Saul Smith and freshman Tayshaun Prince.

        “It has a lot to do with knowing our roles and understanding what to do in the game,” Hogan said. “It's been a learning experience. But the three is a big weapon for us now.”

Remembering Stewart
        Tubby Smith attended a visitation for UK recruit John Stewart on Thursday night in Indianapolis. Because of the game tonight, UK's coaches and players will be unable to attend the funeral today.

        But the team will have a presence there, having sent Stewart's family a UK jersey bearing the No.53 he would have worn as a Wildcat. The family planned to put the jersey in the coffin.

        Stewart, a 7-foot center at Indianapolis Lawrence North High, died last Friday after collapsing during a game.

No worries
        The Cinderella RedHawks have become media darlings, but the Wildcats aren't worried about the fact that fans nationwide might be pulling for the underdogs tonight.

        “That's on TV,” Padgett said. “In this arena, I'm willing to bet we'll have more fans. We won't be able to hear all those fans cheering on TV.”

Dome sweet dome
        UK has won 16 consecutive games in domed stadiums and 19 of its last 20. The Trans World Dome, a $280 million structure that opened in 1995, can hold up to 43,000 fans for basketball.

        It will play host to the 2005 Final Four and either the NCAA first/second round or Midwest Regional in 2004.

       



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