Sunday, December 09, 2001

Kentucky 79, North Carolina 59


Prince's 7 3s lead UK rout

By Rusty Hampton
The Louisville Courier-Journal

[img]
Matt Doherty despairs for his Tar Heels.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky became the first school in college basketball history to reach 1,800 wins Saturday, when the 11th-ranked Cats (5-1) throttled North Carolina, 79-59 before a Rupp Arena crowd of 23,153 and a national television audience.

        It was the fifth consecutive victory for UK and marked the second year in a row the Cats have romped over the Tar Heels in a game matching the two winningest programs in the college game.

        Afterward, though, the significance of No.1,800 was overshadowed by the way it was accomplished — aided greatly by one of the most spine-tingling individual 3-point shooting displays ever.

        Preseason all-American Tayshaun Prince hit his first six 3-pointers, including five on consecutive possessions in the first four minutes of the game, staking UK to an early lead it never lost.

        No.5 was launched near the “K” in the midcourt UK logo, a good 10 feet past the top of the key and the 19-foot-9-inch 3-point circle. That put UK up 15-10 less than four minutes into the game and had the crowd roaring.

        The game's first timeout was called seconds later, and the 6-9 Prince was mobbed by teammates when he arrived at the UK bench.

        “Unbelievable,” said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith. “I have never seen a guy do that. He was just possessed. ... Where he was shooting them from was just unbelievable. If I'm over on the North Carolina bench, I'm thinking, "What's going on?'”

        “Ridiculous,” said North Carolina's Matt Doherty.

        “I was speechless,” said UK freshman guard Rashaad Carruth.

        “I was just screaming,” said Wildcats point guard Cliff Hawkins said.

        “I was cheering for him — and I was in the game,” said Gerald Fitch. “I was supposed to be playing defense, but I was cheering for him.”

        Prince said he shot well during pregame warmups and it carried over to the game. After Kris Lang gave North Carolina a 4-0 lead with two quick buckets, Prince took over, hitting 3s from everywhere. Top of the key, wing and corner. It didn't matter.

        “I was a little surprised they weren't denying me the ball,” Prince said. “(Jason) Capel was up on me close, but at the same time, as far as I was out, he probably didn't think I was going to take those shots.”

        Prince said he couldn't remember the last time he launched a shot from as far away as he did No.5.

        “A long, long time,” he said, smiling. “But you know if I hadn't hit four before that, I wouldn't have taken that shot.”

        Not that his coach minded.

        “If it goes in,” said Smith, “it's a good shot.”

        Said Fitch: “When you're shooting like that, what can the coach tell you?”

        Capel, the Tar Heels' 6-8 senior forward, said he felt helpless.

        “Once he gets it going, all you can do is get your hand up,” Capel said. “He was shooting it right in my face. I have to congratulate him.”

        “I don't know if I can ever remember a guy shooting the basketball like he did tonight,” Doherty said. “He had a phenomenal night.”

        Prince hit his first seven shots overall before cooling off. But he still tied his career high with 31 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and pitched in with four assists and four steals.

        After Prince's sixth 3-pointer gave UK a 20-12 lead just seven minutes into the game, the Cats led by at least six the rest of the way. They led 47-35 at the half and by as much as 23 midway through the second half.

        Lang, playing with flu-like symptoms that caused him to vomit during halftime, connected on his first seven attempts for North Carolina and finished with 18 points. Capel had 11 points and 12 rebounds, but UK held North Carolina to 36 percent shooting, including just 22.7 percent (5-of-22) on 3-pointers.

        Smith called it the Cats' best defensive effort of the season.

        “I thought we had a good total team effort, all the way around,” he said. “Even the guys who didn't shoot the ball well, like Keith (Bogans) and Marquis (Estill), we had others step up. That tells me we're getting better as a team.”

        Bogans, UK's leading scorer going in with a 17-point average, hit just one of 9 shots and scored only two points — his lowest output since the second game of his freshman season.

        Estill scored just four points but Marvin Stone came off the bench for 11, marking the first time in his career the 6-10 junior has hit double figures in back-to-back games. Eleven Cats scored and UK outrebounded the Tar Heels 45-33, including 30-19 in the second half.

        During one timeout, Smith was seen counseling the emotional Bogans, encouraging him to keep playing hard.

        “Coach just told me to stay after it,” Bogans said. “My shot wouldn't fall but that's the thing about this team - I don't have to score points for us to win ball games.”

        Especially not when Prince shoots the way he did.

        “He was on fire,” Bogans said. “I haven't seen him shoot the ball like that in a long time. He's done it in pick-up games, but not in a long time. Every time he shot it, we just knew it was going in and we started running back the other way.”

        Said Prince: “You dream about playing against a team like North Carolina and you dream about doing things like this.”

       



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