Thursday, November 29, 2001
UK learns about itself in win
Estill, Hawkins prove helpful as Kent St. falls
By Bill Koch
The University of Kentucky Wildcats showed up in Cincinnati looking to play a little more aggressively than they have so far this season, put on a good show for their Northern Kentucky fans and register a victory.
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They got more than they bargained for.
After a sloppy first half, the Wildcats pulled away from Kent State to post an 82-68 victory Wednesday before 10,352 fans at the Firstar Center and left town wondering if they hadn't answered two major questions for the remainder of their season.
Junior center Marquis Estill scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and contributed six rebounds, while backup point guard Cliff Hawkins turned in his best effort of the season with 12 points, six assists and just two turnovers.
Both developments left Smith feeling good about his annual excursion north.
UK, ranked 13th by the Associated Press, has won three straight games since its season-opening loss to Western Kentucky. Kent State, picked to win the East Division in the Mid-American Conference, is 3-2.
Keith Bogans shared team-high scoring honors with Estill. Tayshaun Prince, after being held to five points in the first half, finished with 17. Forward Antonio Gates led Kent State with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats did not play especially well in the first half, trailing by as many as eight points and committing 12 turnovers. But they settled down in the second half when they committed just four more turnovers and pulled away with a 19-8 run after intermission to put away the Golden Flashes.
Hawkins ran the offense as well as he has all year in his bid to take over the starting point guard job.
Cliff was outstanding, Smith said. If we can get that kind of play out of him, we're going to be pretty solid.
If Smith has been waiting to see that kind of play out of Hawkins, he's not alone. Hawkins has been waiting for a game like this, too.
I've got to penetrate and create shots for other people, Hawkins said. Tonight I think I did a good job running the offense and picking my spots. It just happened that way.
It happened for Estill, too, who was more aggressive underneath the basket against a smaller, less physical Kent State team. Chronically hampered by bad knees, Estill said he has been feeling better lately, enabling him to move more freely and play more forcefully.
I think I can overpower a lot of guys, said the 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior. I like to take them under the basket and I felt like I could do that tonight.
He also rather uncharacteristically absorbed two charging fouls, perhaps a sign he really has become more mobile.
I think that got the team pumped up, Estill said. They're not used to seeing me take two charges.
Neither is Smith, who entered the game hoping to exploit the Wildcats' size advantage inside.
We felt like we had an advantage in the post, Smith said. We wanted to attack the post.
But they didn't attack the post very well in the early going when Kent State was jumping to its eight-point lead with 13:12 left in the first half and again when the Golden Flashes led by seven, with 7:54 left in the half.
During that stretch, the UK offense was a mess and the Kent State players were consistently outfighting the Wildcats for loose balls. The quicker Kent State guards were also having their way against UK penetrating on the dribble, forcing Smith to abandon his man-to-man defense with about five minutes left and switch to a zone, which worked well enough to enable the Wildcats to erase the seven-point deficit and take a 37-35 halftime lead.
The Wildcats played much better in the second half, thanks largely to the play of Hawkins.
He was actually a surprise to us, said Kent State guard Trevor Huffman. We really kept our focus on Prince and Bogans so Hawkins really hurt us. We let him basically dominate the position and it killed us in the end.
Kent St. 35-33 68
Kentucky 37-45 82
Attendance10,352. 3-point goals KSU 4-15 (Shaw 1-4 Mitchell 1-4, Huffman 2-5, Wilkins 0-1, Thomas 0-1) UK 6-20 (Prince 2-6, Estill 0-1, Blevins 0-1, Bogans 2-8, Hawkins 2-2, Daniels 0-1, Hayes 0-1). Technical fouls None. Officials Tim Huggins, David Day, Carlos Reyes.
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