Sunday, February 15, 2004
Smith fumes as Bulldogs jump Wildcats
Coach questions team's toughness
By Pat Forde
ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Kentucky basketball team flinched Saturday against Georgia, leading to an unflinching rip job from its coach.
Tubby Smith, who might value physical and mental toughness above all other basketball attributes, has seen his Wildcats play soft twice this season against the inartistic-but-aggressive Bulldogs. Not coincidentally, he has seen his No. 8-ranked team stunningly lose twice to the last-place outfit in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division.
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is less than pleased. "It just rips your heart out. That bothers me, when guys don't reach down for the challenge," he said after UK lost again to Georgia.
After Saturday's 74-68 upset in Stegeman Coliseum, a fierce affair that featured 55 free throws, four technical fouls and an intentional foul, Smith buried his team for avoiding the fight.
"(A loss like this) is so disappointing," he said. "It just rips your heart out. That bothers me, when guys don't reach down for the challenge."
The leaders Smith was especially unhappy with were his post men, Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes.
Daniels had just four points and four rebounds in 37 minutes of play, his second straight low-impact game after being named the SEC Player of the Week last Monday. He hasn't shot a free throw in two games.
Hayes had nine points, nine rebounds, five turnovers and missed several point-blank shots and half his six foul shots.
"When Chuck's missing layups like that ... it's just ridiculous," Smith said. "Erik was just running around. He was scared to death.
"Chuck looked like he was running around looking - I don't know what he was looking for. Erik's throwing up hook shots running away from the basket. They looked like they hadn't been taught how to go aggressively to the basket."
Georgia, which scored just 39 points in a 22-point loss to Vanderbilt Wednesday, improved to 12-10 overall, just 4-7 in SEC play. The Bulldogs remain in the NCAA Tournament picture, having beaten Georgia Tech and now Kentucky twice.
The Wildcats, in a five-game stretch against teams with losing SEC records that was supposed to help them all but lock up the East, fell to 17-4, 7-3 in the league. UK lost for the first time in three games without leading scorer Gerald Fitch, who is nursing a sprained index finger on his shooting hand.
Kelenna Azubuike led the Wildcats with a career-high 23 points, at times single-handedly keeping Kentucky in the game in the second half. He filled much of the offensive void left by Fitch, who stayed home in Lexington. So, apparently, did Kentucky's toughness.
That's a bad thing when the opponent is the Bulldogs, whose confrontational defensive style under first-year coach Dennis Felton puts a premium on playing through contact.
"We certainly knew what to expect coming in here, and we didn't respond," Smith said. "... They're very aggressive defensively, very physical. They deny passes, hit you hard on boxouts. You've got to be ready and be ready to attack and be more aggressive."
Team rebounds - 3.
Team rebounds - 7.
3-pointers - UK 7-18 (Hawkins 2-6, Azubuike 2-4, Barbour 0-2, Hayes 0-1, Moss 3-4, Stockton 0-1). Technicals - K 2 (Hayes, Thomas). Officials - N/A. Attendance - 10,523.
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