Sunday, March 21, 1999

KENTUCKY NOTEBOOK


Padgett wins go-to pageant

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — Auditions are over. After 36 games, Kentucky has finally appointed a go-to player: Scott Padgett.

        Though his 12.7 scoring average is on pace to be the lowest for a UK leading scorer in 51 years, Padgett is nonetheless the best option for late-game heroics. Plus, he wants the job.

        “I'm a very competitive person,” he said. “If it comes down to where we need a basket, I'm probably the one who'll look to score.”

        Padgett has averaged 19.3 points the last four games, raising his season average nearly a full point. He is shooting .525 in that span, including .545 (12-of-22) from three-point range.

        His career-high 29 points last Sunday against Kansas included a three-pointer with 18.7 seconds left which forced overtime, and 22 of those points came in the last 13 minutes. Fourteen of his 17 points Friday against Miami came in the second half.

        Sixteen times this year he has been UK's leading scorer, including four of the last five games.

        “He has just really stepped up his game,” UK sophomore center Michael Bradley said. “Early on, he was trying to get everyone involved. But now it's crunch time.

        “He has really been hot lately. He really wants the ball. He's our leader, and we're going to do our best to get him the ball and set screens to get him open.”

        Padgett has been quite vocal in recent games, calling for passes, but admits his fate often rests with the point guard.

        “A lot of it has to do with what Wayne (Turner) does,” he said. “He creates a lot for me and the team. He's also the guy calling the plays, so if he calls a play for me, I'm going to get the ball.”

Bradley disappears
        While Padgett's stock soars, Bradley's plummets. Though he continues to start, he has been getting less minutes than Jamaal Magloire in the center platoon and his scoring has suffered.

        Bradley has averaged 4.7 points in six postseason games, dropping his season average from 11.1 to 10.0. He has totaled just two points (on two free throws) the last two games, missing one field-goal attempt in each game.

        “I haven't been getting many shots up lately, but my role has kind of changed in the postseason,” he said. “I'm more of a screening, rebounding guy, letting the offense come to me.


       



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