Sunday, December 23, 2001

UK's Hawkins makes his point

Soph guard leads win over Indiana

By Rusty Hampton
Louisville Courier-Journal

        INDIANAPOLIS — In the relative lull between the twin tornadoes of Duke and the University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky basketball team came to the RCA Dome Saturday looking for a little pick-me-up against Indiana University.

        The No.7-ranked Wildcats got it from sophomore Cliff Hawkins, a whirling point guard who turned the Hoosiers inside out while leading UK to a 66-52 victory before an announced crowd of 29,379.

        Hawkins scored a career-high 17 points, handed out a game-high five assists and completely outplayed Hoosiers point guards Tom Coverdale and Donald Perry.

        Tayshaun Prince, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds, remains UK's leader heading into Saturday's showdown at home vs. Louisville.

        But the show Hawkins put on, coming off a 15-point performance in Tuesday's 95-92 overtime loss to top-ranked Duke, clearly has established the lightning-quick left-hander as the Cats' floor leader.

        When Hawkins wasn't making steals (two) or knocking down 3-pointers (2 for 4), he was sprinting past the Hoosiers guards, then dropping pull-up jumpers, laying it off the glass or dishing off to an open teammate.

        “Tayshaun had an excellent game, and Cliff really ran the show,” UK coach Tubby Smith said. “He was really breaking people down with his penetration.”

        The victory was equal parts salve and pacifier for UK (7-2), which won't play again until the Cardinals come to Rupp Arena on Saturday. It marked the second consecutive bad outing for the Hoosiers (6-4), who shot a season-low 32.1 percent.

        Sparked by an over-the-head dunk by Prince off a lob pass from Hawkins, the Cats opened a 15-point lead late in the first half. The Hoosiers cut it to eight by the break, but UK led by 10 or more for the final 16 minutes, 23 seconds.

        IU was held to 20 second-half points and registered its lowest point total against UK in 25 years. Reserve Jarrad Odle led the Hoosiers with 12 points. Leading scorer Jared Jeffries was held to 10 — five less than his average — on 4-for-15 shooting, and no other Hoosier hit double figures.

        “We had a very good defensive effort,” Smith said. “Probably one of the best we've had so far this year.”

        Said IU coach Mike Davis: “There's no way we can beat a basketball team like (UK). They're very good. They should have beaten Duke.”

        Whether the Cats should have taken the Blue Devils will be debated from now through March. What can't be questioned is UK's ability to respond to a setback — or who should start at the point.

        Senior J.P. Blevins, who has started twice this season and missed the second half of the game with a sprained right wrist, will continue to get back-up minutes at the position. But Hawkins clearly has demonstrated he's the man for the job.

        “When we spread the offense, he's almost unstoppable,” guard Keith Bogans said. “He's always played that way in practice, but sometimes he chooses not to shoot that much. We've been telling him to keep attacking until somebody can stop him.”

        Added Davis: “He got to the basket any time he wanted to.” Smith said Saturday that Hawkins is playing better this season because he's more under control and that he's more under control because his asthma isn't a factor.

        “He's not hyperventilating like in the past, when he'd get so fatigued,” Smith said. “Now he's stronger and more physical, and his wind allows him to play for a longer period of time.”

        Hawkins has debunked the asthma excuse so often he's tired of talking about it. An icy “no comment” was his reply Saturday.

        “It's like I told you all before, I'm going to get better and better with each game, and I'm just living up to what I told you I'm going to do,” he said. “Off the dribble, ain't too many people that can crowd me and stay in front of me with the type of moves I've got.”

Kentucky 40-26— 66
Indiana 32-20— 52

Attendance—29,379. 3-point goals—Kentucky 4-13 (Prince 0-4, Hawkins 2-4, Fitch 0-1, Bogans 0-2, Carruth 1-1, Chiles 1-1); Indiana 3-17 (Jeffries 0-1, Moye 0-1, Coverdale 0-6, Fife 2-4, Perry 0-2, Hornsby 1-3). Technical fouls—Indiana: Odle. Officials—Ted Hillary, Jim Burr, Tom Eades.


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