Sunday, March 17, 2002

Prince puts Wildcats in Sweet 16

Scores career-high 41 points vs. Tulsa

The Associated Press

        ST. LOUIS — A career-high 41 points didn't satisfy Tayshaun Prince, who broke out of his shooting slump with authority.

        While perusing the statistic sheet following Kentucky's 87-82 victory over Tulsa in the second round of the East Regional on Saturday, Prince noted he didn't have a turnover in 37 minutes but had only nine rebounds.

        “I should have had one more rebound,” he said. “Should have had the double-double.”

        Kentucky's lone senior starter went 14-for-21 from the field, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

        “It got to the point where I was just shaking my head,” Tulsa guard Greg Harrington said. “We tried to find a way to stop him, but nothing worked.”

        Kentucky never stopped giving Prince the ball.

        “Even the bench was yelling, "Get the ball to Tayshaun!'” coach Tubby Smith said. “It was spectacular.”

        The rail-thin Prince, who's 6-foot-9, 215 pounds, didn't run out of gas until after the game, when he showed up at the news conference with an oatmeal cookie.

        “I was really hungry,” Prince said. “I needed to get a bite of something.”

        The NCAA Tournament is bringing out the best in a team that lost four of nine games coming in, with Kentucky (22-9) also impressive in beating Valparaiso 73-58 in the first round.

        “We talked about wiping the slate clean, forgetting the past,” Smith said. “That's what we've done.”

        Kentucky fought off several runs by Tulsa (27-7), and four free throws by Prince in the final 25 seconds were crucial. Both teams were on target on 3-pointers: Kentucky went 10-for-19 from long range to compensate for shooting 44 percent overall, and Tulsa was 9-for-20.

        The Wildcats led 81-72 with 4:49 to go, but the Golden Hurricane cut the gap to two on a 3-pointer by Harrington with 57 seconds left. The lead was three after Andre Reed's layup 47 seconds later, but Prince clinched it with a pair of free throws with 8.5 seconds remaining.

        “If we would have gotten a lead, momentum would have switched,” Tulsa center Charlie Davis said. “Every time we hit a big shot, they answered.”

        Mostly, Prince answered.

        “It was a good thing I was taking care of the basketball and knocking shots down, because it was just a three-point game with 10 seconds left,” Prince said. “It was just a good, good win.”

        Kentucky is 11-2 in second-round games since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and UK made it to the round of 16 for the second straight season. The victory over 12th-seeded Tulsa might have been bittersweet for Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, facing the school that gave him his first Division I job in 1995.

        The Wildcats play the winner of today's Maryland-Wisconsin game.

        Prince, Kentucky's leading scorer with a 16-point average, topped his previous career best of 31 points.

        He made seven of his first eight shots and added nine rebounds, three blocked shots and four assists. He was 12-for-15 at one point in the second half before missing four of his last six shots.

        “He hit a 3 that was ridiculously long,” Tulsa coach John Phillips said. “If you make one from 25 feet, it's your night.”

        Prince broke out after shooting 35 percent over the previous seven games. That included a 5-for-14 outing against Valparaiso, although his defense on Mid-Continent Conference player of the year Lubos Barton was instrumental to Kentucky's victory.

        He said the key was scoring off the drive in the early going before taking the outside shot.

        “I got some to fall,” Prince said. “Guys knew I had it going on, so they tried to get it to me as much as possible.”

        Kentucky threatened to make it a rout early against Tulsa, hitting seven of its first eight shots and going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half. But the Wildcats needed a long 3 from Prince at the buzzer for a 43-42 lead after an 11-0 Tulsa run.

        “That was a big, big basket,” Prince said. “I thought it was a big, big shot and boost of confidence.”

        Kentucky's Keith Bogans added 19 points, following up a 21-point outing in the first round. Bogans took only 10 shots, deferring to Prince.

        “He was knocking everything down, so get him the ball,” Bogans said. “When a guy is that hot, you have no choice but to get him the ball.”


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