Sunday, March 18, 2001

Kentucky Notebook


Fitch key cog in UK machine

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNIONDALE, N.Y. — If one moment turned around UK's season, it might have been Dec.22, when coach Tubby Smith inserted freshman guard Gerald Fitch into the starting lineup against rival Indiana.

        Kentucky was 3-5 before that game and facing heavy criticism by fans and the media for a lackluster start.

        The 6-foot-3 Fitch, of Macon, Ga., replaced Marvin Stone as a starter and scored 10 points — including six of the Wildcats' first 10 points — as UK won 88-74 at Louisville's Freedom Hall.

        Since then, Fitch has been a regular starter in a three-guard offense that also features senior Saul Smith and sophomore Keith Bogans.

        With Fitch starting, UK is 20-4 and one of the nation's hottest teams. Tubby Smith said it's no coincidence.

        “We were looking for a shooting guard and became intrigued by his character,” Smith said Friday. “We were fortunate to sign him during a late period. He knows how to mix it up with the big guys. He brings quickness and toughness into our lineup.”

        Fitch has played in all 33 Kentucky games.

        He finished with 10 points against Iowa on Saturday, on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. He also had two rebounds, two assists.

        A COACHING FIRST: Until Saturday's second- round NCAA Tournament game, Tubby Smith had never coached against Iowa, and the Hawkeyes' Steve Alford had never coached against Kentucky.

        3-WAY: Kentucky has made a 3-point field goal in 440 consecutive games, a streak that dates to Nov.26, 1987, when UK, playing in the Great Alaska Shootout, lost to Seton Hall — by three points.

        ON A ROLL: Kentucky is 60-9 in the postseason since 1992. UK finished the season ranked ninth by the Associated Press, its highest ranking of the season. It also was the Wildcats' 35th Top-10 finish, which leads the nation.

Online pool and college hoops coverage at Cincinnati.com



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