Sunday, January 12, 2003

Reserves starting to make impact

UK notebook

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith said he knew it was just a matter of time before his bench got bullish.

Kentucky's reserves combined for 14 points and 78 minutes in a 62-55 victory Saturday over South Carolina. What they didn't give was more important: rest for the Gamecocks.

"The second team could just as easily play as the first team in practice," Smith said. "That keeps pressure on your opposition when there's no dropoff when you go to the bench."

Cliff Hawkins played 26 minutes Saturday at point guard, totaling four points, two assists and two blocks. Antwain Barbour made his only field goal attempt, a tip-dunk of a Josh Carrier miss, and added four rebounds and two assists.

Kelenna Azubuike had four points, with Jules Camara and Bernard Cote also scoring.

"Kentucky's depth became a factor," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "Because of them, we weren't able to sustain the play we showed early in the game."

UK used mostly reserves during its 25-6 run to close the first half.

As Smith tells it, many of his backups are only now becoming comfortable in their roles.

"It's tough to come off the bench when you've been a starter all your life," he said of his reserves. "But we know we can plug those guys in at any time. We want guys to play at that level (of their play Saturday) constantly."

Barbour, a junior-college All-American, had seemed to struggle the most as he lost his starting spot and missed a month with a broken hand. He's now playing better and appears more upbeat.

"With minutes, you've got to take advantage of what you get," he said. "Whatever it takes, I've got to do it."

TWILIGHT ZONE: Smith doesn't like to play zone defense. Yet he scrapped man-to-man entirely Saturday when a zone kept the Gamecocks in check.

"We were not making shots early, and Kentucky wisely stuck in that zone," Odom said.

South Carolina entered the game ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting (31.2 percent), and it made just 21.4 percent of those shots Saturday.

CAT TALES: This was the 2,400th game in UK basketball history. UK, the nation's winningest program, is 1828-571-1 all time (76.2 percent). ... UK was 15-of-19 at the free throw line. It is making 81.1 percent of its free throws (43-of-53) in SEC play. ... Keith Bogans eclipsed the 1,600-point mark. He has 1,607 points, in 11th place on the UK all-time scoring list.

UP NEXT: UK visits Vanderbilt at 9 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN).

UC 83, TCU 72
Barker starts, but Moore finishes

XU 99, St. Bonaventure 83
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No. 18 UK 62, South Carolina 55
Reserves starting to make impact
Top 25 roundup: Okafor plays little, comes up big
Ohio State 81, No. 15 Indiana 69
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Eagles 20, Falcons 6
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Ohio girls: Bacon surprises No. 2 McNick
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Grab a pal, head for the hill