Sunday, January 27, 2002

Ice-cold UK can't gain ground on Gators, UGa.

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Tubby Smith grimaced as his team missed its first eight shots Saturday night against No.14 Alabama.

        Little did he know it would only get worse as the eighth-ranked Wildcats opened the second half a frigid 1-for-10 and allowed the Crimson Tide to escape Rupp Arena with a 66-61 victory.

        “We couldn't get any consistency — any consistent scoring, any consistent movement or any consistent defense,” Smith said. “We got people in position to score. We just couldn't put the ball in the basket.”

        Erwin Dudley scored 16 points and Rod Grizzard had 14 as Alabama (17-3, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) won in Lexington for the first time since 1989.

        “It feels great to be a part of this, to walk into Rupp Arena and walk out with a victory,” Grizzard said. “It's great for our team confidence to come in and do something like this.”

        Mo Williams and Antoine Pettway added 13 points each as the Crimson Tide snapped Kentucky's four-game win streak, leaving the Wildcats (13-5, 3-3) a game behind No.5 Florida and No.15 Georgia in the SEC's Eastern Division.

        Kentucky won't have much time to sulk about the loss. The Wildcats travel to Florida on Tuesday to take on the fifth-ranked Gators, who will be in a foul mood following Saturday's 94-92 overtime loss at Arkansas.

        “We're just going to have to be angrier than them, than everybody, really, from here on out,” Smith said. “That's the way it's going to have to be.

        “We blew a golden opportunity to pull even with Florida and Georgia in our division. Now our backs are against the wall again.”

        Tayshaun Prince scored 14 points and Gerald Fitch added 11 for the Wildcats, who shot 39 percent overall and only 23 percent from 3-point range — their worst performance since a 64-52 season-opening loss to Western Kentucky.

        Kentucky's starters never could find their range, making just 12 of 41 shots. Prince and junior guard Keith Bogans combined to hit only 7-of-25 overall and 2-of-14 on 3-point attempts.

        “Even with them not playing well, we still had chances,” Smith said. “When that happens, we need somebody to step up and take charge.”

        Alabama shot 42 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range. Grizzard made only three of 15 shots but hit 7-of-10 from the foul line and grabbed seven rebounds.

        “We have some great kids who have been on the road and not won, and that hurts,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “I think they've taken some pride knowing that it's going to be loud and that teams are going to make runs at us.

        “We have to answer that, and we did that tonight. This is something our players should be very proud of.”

        Foul shooting proved to be the difference in the game. Alabama hit 21-of-29 from the line; the Wildcats had just eight attempts, making six.

        “We were throwing it inside a lot to try to get to the line but just weren't getting there,” Smith said.

        Kentucky's game-opening cold spell gave Alabama a 6-0 lead at the 16-minute mark. But the Wildcats hit their next five shots to go up 13-12 with 12:08 remaining.

        A 7-0 run, keyed by Pettway's second 3-pointer, put Alabama up 19-13 midway through the half.

        Down 27-21, Bogans swished a long 3-pointer to key an 8-0 spurt to put Kentucky up 29-27 with 55 seconds to play.

        Following Dudley's basket inside, Prince hit a runner off the glass at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 31-29 halftime lead.

        Alabama opened the second half with nine straight points to go up 38-31.

        Dudley hit two free throws to give the Crimson Tide a 44-35 lead with 11:27 remaining as Kentucky missed nine of its first 10 shots to that point.

        Fitch and Prince each made 3-pointers to spark a 10-2 run to pull the Wildcats within one, 46-45, with 8:10 to play. A 6-0 spurt put Alabama back on top 52-45.

        Kentucky regained the lead, 58-57, on Prince's driving basket and free throw with 1:49 remaining. Williams' runner on Alabama's next possession put the Crimson Tide in the lead for good.

        Down 60-58 with time winding down, Kentucky turned the ball over under its own basket and was forced to intentionally foul Grizzard, ending its hopes of a comeback.

        “We just couldn't make plays tonight,” said Fitch, who finished with a team-high eight rebounds. “As bad as we played, we could have won this game if we had just made a few plays down the stretch.”

       Kentucky 31 30— 61Alabama 29 35— 64 Attendance—23,544. 3-point goals— ALA 3 (Grizzard 1, Pettway 2), UK 7 (Prince 1, Hawkins 1, Fitch 3, Bogans 1, Carruth 1). Technical fouls— none. Officials— Clougherty, Thibodeaux, Adams.


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