Thursday, January 2, 2003

Defense must dig in, Smith tells Wildcats

Smith finds fault in 28-point win

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Coaches usually don't complain about 28-point victories, but Kentucky's Tubby Smith found plenty to criticize with the Wildcats' defense in their 115-87 win over Tennessee State on Monday.

"In order to be a great team, we have to play better defensively," Smith said Wednesday.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats (7-3) were bigger, faster and stronger than the Tigers, and won Monday's game handily. They should have a similarly easy time beating Alcorn State (2-9) tonight..

But Smith said Kentucky's immediate improvement is imperative with the Southeastern Conference schedule beginning next week.

"I'm concerned about our veteran guys getting beat off the dribble. That's the biggest concern I have," Smith said. "Also, the rotation from the weak side - we haven't been getting it all year. We're not stopping layups and they're getting 3-pointers, too."

Tennessee State shot 52 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range in the loss. The Tigers also had 18 assists, the most by a UK opponent this season.

Smith said the watermark for a good defensive effort is 40 percent shooting by the opponent. Kentucky has held only two teams - Arizona State and Gonzaga - below that mark and won both games. Indiana shot 41 percent in the Wildcats' 70-64 win on Dec. 21.

But Tennessee State was the third opponent in four games to shoot better than 46 percent against Kentucky. The other two - Michigan State and Louisville - defeated the Wildcats.

Smith was much happier with Kentucky's offensive improvement from the 81-63 loss at Louisville last Saturday.

The Wildcats shot 53 percent and had 31 assists against Tennessee State - more assists than they had in their previous two games combined.

The game will mark a return, of sorts, for longtime Alcorn State coach Dave Whitney, a Kentucky native. Whitney played at Lexington's Dunbar High School and graduated from Kentucky State in 1953.

Whitney is in his 27th season at the Mississippi school and has 554 career victories.

UK WOMEN: Before the men's game, the women will play Marshall. The women haven't played in Rupp Arena since 1995 because of cost and availability issues.

"The players are really excited about it. It's a dream come true to some of them," said Kentucky women's coach Bernadette Mattox.

No. 20 UK vs. Alcorn State

Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. today, Rupp Arena (23,000), Lexington.

Records: UK 7-3, ASU 2-9.

Radio: WSAI-AM (1530).

TV: Fox Sports Net, tape-delay (midnight).

Series: First meeting.

Line: None.


Dion CallansJr.6-86.5
Jason CableSr.6-28.1
Rhau-Chavis LandfairJr.6-103.8
Tori HarrisSr.6-410.5
Cory JacksonSo.5-113.2
Coach: Dave Whitney (498-283, 27th season; 553-346 overall).


Chuck HayesSo.6-68.4
Erik DanielsJr.6-88.8
Marquis EstillSr.6-912.2
Keith BogansSr.6-519.2
Gerald FitchJr.6-312.1
Coach: Tubby Smith (139-46, sixth season; 263-108 overall).

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