Monday, March 24, 2003

UK: Wildcats run win streak to 25

Kentucky brushes aside Utah by 20; Wisconsin is next

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Kentucky coach Tubby Smith offered this checklist of postseason necessities: defense, rebounding and strong foul shooting. Check, check and check.

While many of the nation's powers sweated it out or fell out on the NCAA Tournament's first weekend, the Wildcats maintained their season-long strengths Sunday in a 74-54 victory over Utah in a Midwest Region second-round game at Gaylord Entertainment Center.

UK (31-3) held the Utes to 39.6 percent shooting, won the rebounding battle 35-22 and made all 18 free-throw attempts.

"We came in and took care of business," Smith said.

Top-seeded UK advances to play No. 5 seed Wisconsin (24-7), the Big 10 regular-season champion, in a regional semifinal at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

The Wildcats had only a hiccup of concern Sunday. Allowing Utah to cut their lead under 10 points midway through the second half, they responded by scoring the next 11 points.

"We definitely lost our focus for a minute," UK junior guard Gerald Fitch said.

Said senior center Jules Camara: "It was just a matter of raising our intensity on defense. They were getting comfortable doing what they wanted to do. But then we stopped them and got some transition baskets."

UK extended its winning streak to 25 games, now tied for the fourth-longest string in school history. UK also won 25 straight from Feb. 27, 1965 to March  5, 1966.

Only one UK streak since 1955 - 27 straight during the 1995-96 season - has been longer.

This is UK's 18th Sweet 16 appearance, one fewer than North Carolina's record 19 appearances. This is the fifth Sweet 16 berth in Smith's six seasons at UK.

The ninth-seeded Utes (25-8) fell behind by 18 points in the first half and still trailed by 17 with 14 minutes to play. But they put together a 10-2 run to creep within nine points with 10:48 left to play.

Chuck Hayes' stickback of a Fitch jumper restored the lead to double digits. Utah would go scoreless on its next nine possessions, as Fitch and Keith Bogans made jumpers and then each added two free throws. At that point, the lead was 20 points with 5:45 to go.

The Wildcats were led in scoring by 18 points apiece from Bogans and senior center Marquis Estill. Estill was 9-of-13 shooting and added 10 rebounds.

UK shot 47.3 percent and forced 16 Utah turnovers.

UK was anything but passive against Utah's sleep-inducing tempo. The Wildcats pounded the ball inside, scoring 24 points in the paint and shooting 53.3 percent in the first half.

"I was getting into the lane, trying to find the guys inside," said Fitch, who had five assists. "Marquis, I don't think anybody can guard him one-on-one."

UK finished with 38 points in the paint. Utah's 22 rebounds were a season low. Utah was missing its top player, 6-foot-10 Britton Johnsen, who was out with an enlarged spleen.

Utah coach Rick Majerus, who calls himself Kentucky's "doormat," had his season ended by the Wildcats for the fifth time in his team's last nine NCAA Tournament appearances.

At Utah, Majerus is 15-4 in the NCAAs against teams other than UK but 0-5 against the Wildcats.



M. Jackson265788115419
C. Jackson2120020002
Team rebounds: 0.

Team rebounds: 2.


3-point goals-Utah 4-14 (Caton 0-2, Frost 1-3, Jacobson 2-5, M. Jackson 1-3, Chaney 0-1); Kentucky 4-13 (Hayes 0-1, Fitch 1-3, Bogans 2-6, Hawkins 1-2, Azubuike 0-1).

Technical fouls-none.

UK's longest win streaks

32: Dec. 5, 1953 to Jan. 8, 1955

27: Dec. 2, 1995 to March 10, 1996

26: Jan. 28 to Dec. 20, 1946

25: Dec. 30, 2002 to present

25: Feb. 27, 1965 to March 5, 1946

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