Sunday, January 11, 2004

Azubuike gets more aggressive, more results

Sophomore has first double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEXINGTON - Kelenna Azubuike perceived a pecking order. The sophomore didn't want to upstage his senior teammates.

Tubby Smith, though, told him to quit being bashful.

UKs Antwain Barbour drives the ball through Vanderbilt defenders Russell Lakey, rear, and Ted Skuchas.
(Gary Landers photo)
Azubuike's newfound aggression Saturday resulted in his first double-double, setting a career high with 11 rebounds and tying his scoring high of 16 points.

"It's something we've talked about, him being more offensive-minded," the UK coach said of Azubuike. "He has been our best (perimeter) shooter."

Azubuike is shooting 53.2 percent overall, including 57.1 percent (16-of-28) on 3-pointers. He talked of being hesitant as the young guy in a veteran starting lineup.

"In some minds, you've got to prove you fit in the starting lineup," he said. ". . . I may have passed up a couple of shots (in recent weeks). You've got to take those shots."

COTE CRITICAL: Bernard Cote continued his climb from obscurity with key contributions for the second consecutive game. The sophomore had career highs of 20 minutes and seven points, including a huge stickback basket when the lead was just four points with five minutes left to play.

Cote nearly had to redshirt because of lingering back pain but has gradually played his way into the lineup. He couldn't even play pickup games until practice began in October.

"It's been great, but I think it's expected of any of us on the bench," Cote said of his play. "If (Smith) asks me for something, I'm ready to provide it."

Cote played 17 strong minutes against North Carolina.

HAWKINS STRUGGLES: Cliff Hawkins had a career-high eight turnovers Saturday, on the heels of a 1-for-13 shooting game against North Carolina, but Smith praised the senior for his defensive contributions.

Hawkins had four steals, including a key one that set up Gerald Fitch for a 3-pointer with 3:53 left that stretched a six-point lead to nine and added 12 points and a career-high seven rebounds.

Smith said he nearly had Brandon Stockton start the second half in Hawkins' place.

"We need Cliff to be a leader," Smith said. "He responded the right way (to the near-benching)."

Hawkins was not available for interviews afterward.

HOT START: UK has started fast in every game this season, leading all 11 at the first TV timeout. It has led by an average of 6.5 points when the whistle blows for the first time after the 16:00 mark.

UK led 13-3 at that mark Saturday and had given up no more than two points by the first media timeout in its previous five games.



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