Sunday, December 16, 2001

Bring on the Blue Devils

Cats build confidence, await Duke

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was concerned about his players letting down against Division II Kentucky State with a showdown with top-ranked Duke looming in Tuesday's Jimmy V Classic.

        He needn't have worried. The ninth-ranked Wildcats took an 11-2 lead and never looked back, thrashing the Thorobreds 118-63 Saturday at Rupp Arena.

        Marquis Estill scored 21 points to lead five players in double figures as Kentucky (6-1) won its sixth straight since a season-opening loss to Western Kentucky.

        “This was a good opportunity to get a lot of guys playing time,” Smith said. “We executed well and kind of took the wind out of their sails early.

        “I hope this leaves us on a high note for our game against Duke. They're a very talented team with players that can beat you so many ways.”

        Estill was 9-of-11 from the field and Tayshaun Prince was 8-of-9 for 18 points as the Wildcats shot a season-high 60 percent, racked up 33 assists and scored 46 points off 28 Kentucky State turnovers.

        “We didn't want to have any letdowns,” said sophomore point guard Cliff Hawkins, who scored four points in his fourth start of the season. “Now that Kentucky State is behind us, our focus turns to Duke.”

        Keith Bogans had 17 points, Gerald Fitch added 12 and Erik Daniels had 10 as Kentucky punished the smaller Thorobreds on the boards.

        The Wildcats outrebounded Kentucky State 51-29, including a 19-10 margin at the offensive end, and scored 84 points inside to the Thorobreds' 42.

        “I think a game like this raises everyone's confidence,” Fitch said. “We were unselfish today and played as a team. It's great to have a game like this before a really big game.”

        Jason McGowan scored 12 points and Nabil Boudissa added nine points and 11 rebounds to lead Kentucky State (2-4), which is coached by former Kentucky standout Winston Bennett.

        “I thank God for the opportunity to come back home, because this is my home,” said Bennett, who also served as an assistant coach at Kentucky under Rick Pitino from 1995-97. “It certainly was an emotional moment for me when the fans gave me a standing ovation.

        “This is the greatest place in the world. They never, ever forget you here.”

        Kentucky had seven players with four or more rebounds and eight with two or more assists.

        Fitch led the Wildcats with seven rebounds, and Hawkins, who added five steals and two rebounds, finished with a career-high eight assists and only three turnovers.

        “It's nice to be able to get everyone involved, especially the guys who don't get a lot of minutes,” Hawkins said. “We wanted to execute our offense, play good defense and get everyone involved, and we were able to do all three.”

        Prince, who hit six consecutive 3-pointers en route to 31 points in Kentucky's last game against North Carolina, scored the first five points of the game as the Wildcats went up 11-2.

        An 8-2 run pulled the Thorobreds within 17-14 with 12:10 remaining, but a 19-3 Kentucky run over the next six minutes put the Wildcats up 36-17.

        Following a Kentucky State basket, the Wildcats scored 11 straight — including two rim-rattling dunks by Estill — to make it 47-19 with 3:52 to play.

        Down 55-25, Kentucky State scored the last seven points of the half to make it 55-32 at halftime.

        “We just didn't come out and play the way we're capable of playing,” McGowan said. “They came out strong and just got the best of us.

        “The way they're playing now, they should have an excellent chance to beat Duke.”

        Kentucky outscored Kentucky State 17-2 over the first five minutes of the second half to make it 72-34. Prince then scored six points during a 13-2 run to make it 85-36 at the 13-minute mark.

        The Thorobreds, who shot only 40 percent, never got within 40 the rest of the way.

       Kentucky State 3231—63 Kentucky 5563—118

        A—18,500. 3-point goals—KSU 6-17 (Pruitt 2-6, Boudissa 1-1, Miller 2-7, Martinez 1-1, McGowan 0-2), UK 6-17 (Prince 1-2, Hawkins 0-1, Bogans 2-5, Blevins 1-2, Carrier 1-2, Daniels 0-3, Hayes 1-1, Sears 0-1). Technicals—None. Officials—Tim Higgins, Ted Valentine, Carlos Reyes.


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