Friday, March 21, 2003

Harper visits IUPUI

UK notebook

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Kentucky sauntered into Gaylord Entertainment Center on Thursday with a famous fan, actress Ashley Judd, in tow. IUPUI couldn't match that star power, but it tried - bringing along five-time NBA champion Ron Harper.

Harper rode the team bus down from Indianapolis.

"It was long and boring," he said. "Bus rides like that are why I don't play basketball anymore."

IUPUI coach Ron Hunter, who befriended Harper growing up in Dayton and was his Miami University teammate, described Harper as his best friend. He was present for each of Harper's NBA titles - three with the Bulls, two with the Lakers.

"Ron has been a tremendous friend," Hunter said. "We've shared a lot of our lives together."

Miami went 81-30 in the four years Harper and Hunter played together, making three NCAA Tournaments.

"It's great he has a chance to experience it with his team," Harper said. "It's amazing what he's done. This was a YMCA job when he got there. Now he's here."

Hunter said Harper's presence has relaxed his team.

"The kids were wide-eyed, then he cracked a joke and got the kids flying around," Hunter said.

INITIALS PLEASE: Hunter dismissed a question about if IUPUI's name - sometimes called "ooey-pooey" - caused his program identity problems. The school prefers its initials to the formal name of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Before John Wooden was coach at UCLA, no one knew what UCLA stood for - until they started to win," Hunter said.

"We have the most unique name in the country. You're supposed to say IUPUI. You can spell it frontwards, you can spell it backwards - it's still IUPUI. It's not 'ooey-pooey.' "

TOO FAR: Hunter's exuberance might have crossed the line. Some of the Wildcats caught his appearance on Best Damn Sports Show Period, in which he spoke at length of IUPUI's plan to "shock the world."

The UK players were not amused.

"They're talking trash to us?" UK's Gerald Fitch said to reporters.

IN THE ZONE: IUPUI plays predominately a matchup zone. That could portend trouble for the Wildcats, who struggled during stretches of all three Southeastern Conference Tournament games when facing zone defenses.

Most significantly, UK was 1-of-11 on 3-pointers in the first half against Auburn and committed 19 turnovers against Mississippi State.

"The kids learned something from those games," coach Tubby Smith said. "I don't know that we'll do much differently. I hope we'll take care of the ball better, make some shots."

FOCUS ON BOGANS: In making his David-vs.-Goliath analogy, Hunter talked about cutting off the head of Goliath.

"The head of Kentucky for us is (Keith) Bogans," Hunter said. "All of our game plan is about defending Bogans."

Bogans challenged that strategy.

"If they think I'm everything on this team, they're wrong," he said. "We've got too many other elements. The other four guys will beat them if they focus on me."

TIME CHANGE: CBS has changed the time of the second-round game Sunday between the UK-IUPUI winner and the Utah-Oregon winner from 4:50 p.m. to approximately 7:10 p.m. The time change was made to facilitate a possible switch to ESPN should CBS go to war coverage.



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