Sunday, February 24, 2002

Wildcats rip Razorbacks

Suspensions don't slow Kentucky in in 71-58 victory

The Associated Press

Kentucky players Erik Daniels, left, and Gerald Fitch sit on the bench during the Wildcats 71-58 victory over Arkansas Saturday. Kentucky coach Tubby Smith suspended both players indefintely Friday for trying to get into a Lexington night club earlier in the week with fake IDs.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        LEXINGTON — Kentucky coach Tubby Smith wasn't sure how his team would respond to the indefinite suspensions of two players less than 24 hours before an important game against Arkansas.

        As it turned out, there was no reason for concern as the 12th-ranked Wildcats pulled together and held off the Razorbacks 71-58 Saturday.

        “I thought our guys really rose to the occasion with two players missing,” Smith said. “Despite all the off-court distractions, we've been pretty solid all year.

        “We're finally getting to the point where guys are trusting and believing in the system. I'm pleased with where we are right now.”

        Even without starting guard Gerald Fitch and key reserve Erik Daniels, who were suspended after trying to enter a Lexington nightclub with fake IDs early Friday, Kentucky's intensity at both ends of the floor rattled the Razorbacks.

        Tayshaun Prince had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead five Kentucky scorers in double figures. Marquis Estill had 12 points and Chuck Hayes, Keith Bogans and Rashaad Carruth each added 10 for the Wildcats (19-7, 9-5 Southeastern Conference), who won for the fourth time in their last five games.

        “When things happen, you've just got to deal with them and move on,” Prince said of the suspensions. “Those two guys understand what they have to do now and how they have to respond.

        “We've just got to focus and stay supportive of each other. Despite all the things we've been through, we're still here.”

        Jannero Pargo had 13 points and six rebounds to lead Arkansas (13-13, 5-9), which has lost five of its last seven games. No other player scored in double figures and the Razorbacks shot only 38 percent.

        Kentucky shot 45 percent and was 16-of-20 from the free throw line, while Arkansas had only seven attempts from the foul line, making three. The Wildcats outrebounded the Razorbacks 39-35 and blocked 10 shots.

        “I know they've been playing a lot of people, trying to find the right combination,” Smith said. “When you struggle shooting the ball, it makes it hard to get in your press. Believe me, I know.”

        UK's defensive pressure forced four turnovers in the first five minutes as the Wildcats went up 13-4.

        “They came out with a lot of energy and put us back on our heels a little bit,” Arkansas guard Brandon Dean said.

        Dean's three-point play pulled the Razorbacks to 18-15 with 9:40 remaining in the first half. But Carruth entered the game and quickly made three straight 3-pointers as Kentucky extended its lead to 30-23 with 7:30 to play.

        “We were really worried about him before the game because, let's face it, that boy can shoot the ball,” Richardson said of Carruth. “When the confidence of a good shooter rises, it's hard to hold him back. He definitely brought the crowd into the game.”

        Leading 34-30, the Wildcats outscored the Razorbacks 9-2 over the half's final 3:30 to take the 41-32 halftime lead. For the half, Kentucky shot 48 percent to Arkansas' 41 percent and blocked seven shots.

        “They came out and played the first half with an energy level as high as it could be,” Richardson said.

        Kentucky quickly pushed the lead to 14 on Cliff Hawkins' 3-pointer from the corner with 15:49 to play.

        Arkansas got as close as 55-48 on Alonzo Lane's two-handed dunk at the 11-minute mark. An 8-2 run pushed Kentucky's lead back to 13 with 7:55 remaining, and the Razorbacks would get no closer.


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