Saturday, March 09, 2002

Kentucky ousted by South Carolina 70-57




The Associated Press

        ATLANTA — Kentucky was outhustled, dominated from the perimeter and overwhelmed by a stifling defense. In other words, South Carolina gave the 12th-ranked Wildcats the same treatment they've long been dishing out to everyone else in the Southeastern Conference tournament in a 70-57 victory Friday night.

        Kentucky (20-9) had won eight of the past 10 league tournaments, including last year's, and lost only twice in its last 28 tournament games.

        “The fact that Kentucky has won countless number of championships did not matter,” said South Carolina coach Dave Odom, whose team upset Mississippi in the first round. “I always believe we can find a way to win.”

        The Gamecocks (18-13) ended a 12-game losing streak to Kentucky and advanced to play No. 8 Alabama in the semifinals Saturday.

        The Wildcats shot just 19-of-61 from the floor (31 percent), compared to 50 percent for the Gamecocks. Kentucky missed its first 14 3-pointers and was 1-of-19 before a predominantly blue-and-white clad crowd.

        “I thought we were better in the last few games, but we didn't seem to have much confidence,” said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, who lost for only the second time in 11 league tournament games. “It just looked like there was a lid on the basket.”

        The Wildcats were playing without third-leading scorer Gerald Fitch, who was benched before the game for unspecified reasons.

        “That was a big, big factor,” Odom said. “In the two games we played against them, he and Cliff Hawkins hurt us the most. I can say with all degree of certainty it would have been a different game if he had played. He's that good a player.”

        Odom is hoping the Gamecocks have played their way off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament.

        “I knew if we were fortunate enough to beat Kentucky, we would be in the conversation,” he said of the at-large selection process. “I'm sure there are people saying, 'They beat them? They really did that?”'

        The Wildcats had won the previous two meetings this season, but were consistently outhustled by the Gamecocks in Round 3.

        Tony Kitchings had 10 points and 13 rebounds for South Carolina, and Aaron Lucas had 12 points, including five free throws in the final 1:42. Jamel Bradley scored 11 points, and Rolando Howell had 10.

        Carlos Powell was 3-for-3 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line for 10 points.

        Kentucky's Tayshaun Prince got into early foul trouble but scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half. Freshman Chuck Hayes got his first double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

        Keith Bogans had 13 points, but he and Prince were a combined 7-of-22 from the floor.

        “They really took us out of our game,” Smith said. “We got some easy baskets early, but then we seemed to fall apart. It was just not a very good representation of what we try to do as a team. It was a pretty disappointing loss. Nothing seemed to work for us.”

        Fans began chanting “We want Fitch! We want Fitch!” midway through the second half, but he didn't make an appearance.

        Fitch served a three-game suspension after he and teammate Erik Daniels — who did play Friday night — were charged with using fake driver's licenses to try to get into a nightclub last month.

        Fitch's 3-pointer with 33 seconds left lifted the Wildcats to a 70-67 victory over Florida in the regular-season finale.

        “It's just a coach's decision not to play him,” said Smith, adding that Fitch would likely return for the NCAA tournament. “We've played through a lot of turmoil and a lot of distractions all year long.

        “Gerald is a big part of our team, but certain things go on and it does pull your team apart in a lot of ways.”

        The Gamecocks got going after managing only one field goal in the first six minutes and led 35-27 at halftime. Down five early, they went on a 17-5 run as Kentucky missed 13 of 15 shots and didn't trail again.

        Prince, who spent all but five minutes of the half on the bench with two fouls, attempted just one shot.

        There was plenty of blame to go around, however.

        “We were not getting penetration,” Prince said. “We were just standing around. We didn't do the things we normally do.”

        Prince and J.P. Blevins, the Wildcats' only seniors, were unaccustomed to such treatment in the SEC tournament.

        “This is certainly not the legacy they want to leave,” Smith said.


SOUTH CAROLINA (70)


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
C Eidson            25   1-3   0-0   0-2   4   2    2
R Howell            29   4-9   2-3   0-3   1   1   10
T Kitchings         26   4-8   2-5  3-13   0   4   10
A Lucas             35   2-8   7-8   0-1   3   2   12
J Bradley           23   4-8   0-2   0-0   2   4   11
I Howell             1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
M Petravicius        7   1-2   0-0   1-1   0   1    2
C Powell            16   3-3   4-4   1-3   1   3   10
G Taylor             1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
C Warren            15   1-1   1-1   0-1   0   2    3
M Boynton           19   2-2   4-6   0-3   2   1   10
I Konare             1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   1    0
J Chappell           1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
J Land               1   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 22-44 20-29  5-27  13  21   70
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.500, FT-.690. 3-Point Goals:
6-13, .462 (C Eidson 0-1, A Lucas 1-3, J 
Bradley 3-7, M Boynton 2-2). Team Rebounds: 
1. Blocked Shots: 5 (T Kitchings 4, C 
Eidson). Turnovers: 14 (M Boynton 3, M 
Petravicius 3, T Kitchings 2, C Warren 2, J 
Bradley, A Lucas, J Land, C Eidson). Steals: 
10 (C Eidson 4, R Howell 2, M Petravicius 2, 
T Kitchings, C Powell).


KENTUCKY (57)


                          fg    ft    rb             
                   min   m-a   m-a   o-t   a  pf   tp
T Prince            24  4-12   3-4   1-5   1   4   12
J Camara            16   2-5   0-0   1-3   0   2    4
C Hayes             34   4-9   2-2  4-13   2   4   10
C Hawkins           25   1-6   2-2   1-1   2   5    4
K Bogans            32  3-10   7-8   2-4   2   1   13
R Carruth           15   0-3   0-1   1-1   0   0    0
J Blevins           15   0-0   0-0   0-0   0   0    0
J Carrier            5   0-1   1-3   1-1   0   0    1
E Daniels           18   4-6   0-0   1-4   2   4    8
M Estill            16   1-9   3-6   5-7   0   3    5


_____________________________________________________
TOTALS             200 19-61 18-26 17-39   9  23   57
_____________________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.311, FT-.692. 3-Point Goals:
1-19, .053 (T Prince 1-5, C Hayes 0-2, C 
Hawkins 0-2, K Bogans 0-6, R Carruth 0-3, J 
Carrier 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked 
Shots: 4 (M Estill 3, C Hayes). Turnovers: 13
(C Hawkins 5, J Blevins 2, K Bogans 2, J 
Camara, M Estill, T Prince, C Hayes). Steals:
5 (J Blevins, E Daniels, C Hawkins, T Prince,
C Hayes).


-----------------------------------
SOUTH CAROLINA       35  35   -  70
KENTUCKY             27  30   -  57
----------------------------------- 


Technical fouls: None. A: 22,508. Officials: Rick 
Crawford, Tom Eades, Tony Greene


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