Sunday, January 07, 2001

Kentucky 67, Georgia 63


UK does just enough to win

By Brian Bennett
The Courier-Journal

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky has proved it can win close basketball games. Now if only the Wildcats could stop other teams from getting so close in the first place.

        In its first Southeastern Conference game of the season, Kentucky repeated a nagging habit, squandering a double-digit second-half lead and sweating out the final seconds. The Cats held off Georgia 67-63 Saturday night in front of 22,646 in Rupp Arena.

        “They all have a tendency to want to think the job is almost done - it's about time to punch the clock and go on home,” coach Tubby Smith said of his players. “That's not the case at all. You can't worry about the time. You can't worry about the score. You've got to play like it's the beginning of the game and the score is tied.”

        Georgia (7-7, 0-1 SEC) had a chance to tie the score after Gerald Fitch missed the second of two free throws, leaving Kentucky with a 66-63 lead with 11.2 seconds left.

        The Bulldogs' best shooter, D.A. Layne, pushed the ball up the court but missed a jumper in the final seconds. He had stepped inside the

        3-point line anyway, so even a swish wouldn't have sent the game into overtime.

        The Cats (7-5, 1-0), who won their fourth straight overall and 15th in a row over Georgia, seemingly had put it away much earlier. They led comfortably most of the second half, and Saul Smith's 3-pointer made it 61-47 with 6:40 left.

        But as has been the case often this season, the Kentucky offense began to stall. Players stood around while the shot clock ticked down, then launched hurried 3-point tries or turned over the ball.

        “I've noticed that when we get up eight or 10, instead of really throwing the ball up the court, we're holding back,” guard J.P. Blevins said. “We're walking the ball up the floor, taking 30 seconds off the shot clock. It kind of goes into a lackadaisical mode, kind of nonchalant. Mentally we've got to be conscious of that.”

        The same problem plagued Kentucky in its previous game, a 64-62 victory at Louisville. The Cardinals rallied from 12 points behind to tie it at 62.

        “It's kind of worrisome,” forward Marquis Estill said. “We can't seem to sustain the lead when we get ahead.”

        Georgia led through much of the first half. But Tayshaun Prince and freshman Cliff Hawkins triggered an 11-2 run to end the half and give Kentucky a 38-29 lead.

        Though Tubby Smith had trimmed his rotation recently, he got heavy contributions from the bench. Estill, who played just five minutes against Louisville, tied Prince with a team-high 12 points and added seven rebounds in nearly 19 minutes.

        “He is capable of being an offensive threat,” Smith said. “He needs to get quality minutes.”

        Blevins, who has struggled most of his junior season, matched his season high of eight points in the first half, drilling two 3-pointers from the baseline and mak ing a layup in traffic.

        “I liked his attitude tonight,” Smith said. “This will give him more confidence in his play, and it will give me more confidence to put him in those situations.”

        Hawkins had four points and two steals during the crucial first-half run. All nine regulars played at least nine minutes.

        “Blevins, Estill and Hawkins came off the bench tonight, and I thought that was the major difference,” Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. “They really hadn't been getting that, and tonight it was a surprise to me.”

        Harrick said he thought his team could win if it held Prince and Keith Bogans to fewer than 15 points each. Bogans scored 10 before rolling his ankle midway through the second half. He later returned.

        Anthony Evans led Georgia with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Layne scored 13.

        Both teams shot under 40 percent, and Kentucky launched 26 3-point attempts, including 16 in the first half, as the Bulldogs opened in a 2-3 zone. The Cats' first five field goals were 3s.

        “Obviously, we've pulled out some games where we have lost leads,” point guard Saul Smith said. “But now we have to have that killer instinct. We don't have it yet, but hopefully this game has taught us a lot.”


GEORGIA (63)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Evans           35  6-11   2-2  4-10  1  1   14
Coleman         27  4-11   1-2   1-5  1  5    9
Wright          34   2-9   0-0   0-1  2  2    5
Williams        22   2-6   0-0   2-4  2  1    4
Layne           34  5-12   0-0   0-2  1  1   13
Jones           22   3-6   1-1   2-4  2  5    7
Dryden          14   1-8   1-2   2-5  0  0    3
Daniels          9   2-2   0-0   0-3  1  3    4
Thomas           3   2-3   0-0   1-1  0  0    4
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 27-68   5-7 12-35 10 18   63
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.397, FT-.714. 3-Point Goals:
4-15, .267 (Wright 1-5, Williams 0-2, Layne 3-6,
Jones 0-2). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 1
(Evans). Turnovers: 18 (Layne 6, Wright 4,
Coleman 2, Jones 2, Williams 2, Daniels, Dryden).
Steals: 5 (Wright 2, Coleman, Daniels, Williams).


KENTUCKY (67)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Bogans          24   3-8   2-4   0-4  1  1   10
Prince          30   4-9   2-4   2-8  2  2   12
Parker          21   3-7   2-5   3-5  0  1    8
Fitch           18   1-5   3-4   3-3  1  1    6
Smith           29   1-5   2-2   0-0  2  1    5
Hawkins          9   2-3   0-0   2-2  2  2    4
Blevins         16   3-5   0-0   0-1  1  0    8
Daniels          9   0-1   0-0   0-2  1  0    0
Stone           25   0-4   2-4   1-5  1  1    2
Estill          19   4-6   4-5   2-7  2  2   12
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 21-53 17-28 13-37 13 11   67
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.396, FT-.607. 3-Point Goals:
8-26, .308 (Bogans 2-6, Prince 2-5, Fitch 1-3,
Smith 1-5, Hawkins 0-1, Blevins 2-4, Stone 0-1,
Estill 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 5
(Prince 2, Parker 2, Estill). Turnovers: 17
(Fitch 4, Estill 3, Prince 3, Smith 2, Stone 2,
Blevins, Bogans, Daniels). Steals: 8 (Smith 3,
Hawkins 2, Fitch, Parker, Prince).
__________________________________
Georgia            29   34  -   63
Kentucky           38   29  -   67
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 22,646. Officials:
Mike Wood, Orlandis Poole, Ray Natili.


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