Thursday, February 19, 2004

Wildcats get long-awaited SEC laugher


No. 9 Kentucky 73, Arkansas 56

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]
Kentucky's Erik Daniels (14) puts in two points over the University of Arkansas' Matt Jones (left) during the first half Wednesday night at Rupp Arena. Daniels finished with 21 points.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GARY LANDERS

LEXINGTON - After two months waiting to exhale, Kentucky caught its breath Wednesday. Trying to regroup after a miserable loss at Georgia and the advent of 6 a.m. practices, the Wildcats were able to rest easy via their 73-56 beating of Arkansas.

It was UK's largest margin of victory since Dec. 23. It was its best shooting percentage, 57.4 percent, since the same date. It was an efficient showing, with 21 assists on 27 baskets.

In short, it was welcome.

"It was the first time we got a win without a heart attack," senior guard Cliff Hawkins said.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats (18-4, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) maintained their SEC East lead by dominating the league's youngest and most undersized squad. They held the Razorbacks (11-12, 3-9) to 37 percent shooting, outscoring them 36-20 in the paint.

Hawkins tied a career high with 11 assists, continually working the ball inside to UK's post players, and had no turnovers. Senior center Erik Daniels totaled 21 points. Four big men - Daniels, Chuck Hayes, Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas - combined for 16-of-19 shooting.

"We wanted to come out and dominate from the start of the game," reserve guard Ravi Moss said. "We wanted to be the one to set the tone tonight."

That didn't happen Saturday against Georgia, a loss that has some Wildcats unsettled.

"I'm still mad about it. But hopefully we can stay mad about it and have that carry us through the rest of the season," swingman Kelenna Azubuike said.

In instituting the early-morning practices and questioning his team's toughness, coach Tubby Smith gave his team its most outspoken challenge.

No one will suggest this win answered every question. But it's a start.

Daniels had been singled out in Smith's challenge. The coach said Daniels was "running scared" in the loss at Georgia, in which he had just four points.

"I knew I let my team down (Saturday)," Daniels said. "I had to play a lot better."

Using a 12-man rotation - including leading scorer Gerald Fitch, in his first game back from injury - UK maintained its legs, which helped it stretch its lead to 24.

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com

Arkansas

MFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Jones28230190224
Ferguson244622001212
Famutimi273110030116
Brewer24275741149
Modica3151544413214
Jones6022211202
Mukubu2110000002
Tatum6010000100
Davis14340011327
Pharis17030032410
Sullivan9010120000
Cranford3000000000
Hunter7000000200
Blackmon2000000000
Totals20020541317306201456
Team rebounds - 3.

PlayerMFGAttFTAttRAFTOTP
Daniels34101313412221
Azubuike274736432112
Hayes10223331427
Hawkins282500511205
Barbour20250032005
Moss8020010110
Fitch22273622118
Carrier4110000003
Obrzut8000120010
LeMaster2000000010
Cote9010000010
Perry16112421025
Alleyne3001200211
Thomas9330010406
Totals200274713253221181373
Team rebounds - 5.

Arkansas2333- 56
Kentucky3439- 73
3-pointers - Arkansas 3-16 (Ferguson 2-2, Davis 1-1, Ma.Jones 0-1, Mi.Jones 0-1, Tatum 0-1, Pharis 0-2, Famutimi 0-2, Brewer 0-3, Modica 0-3), Kentucky 6-14 (Perry 1-1, Carrier 1-1, Hawkins 1-1, Barbour 1-2, Azubuike 1-3, Fitch 1-4, Moss 0-2). Officials - Burr, Greene, Stuart. Att. - 21,941.




BENGALS
Salary cap could cut CB pool
Minority hiring on agenda for Lewis, Tagliabue

UC BEARCATS
Blazers turn tables on slumping Bearcats

COLLEGE SPORTS
Colonials pull within a game of Flyers
Mason tip-in winner for MU
Hot-shooting Auburn topples Louisiana State
Wildcats get long-awaited SEC laugher
Miami women stay on roll in MAC play
Clemson clouds ACC title chase

TV
Sports today on TV, radio

PREP SPORTS
Preps results, schedule
Two advance to state as St. X aims for title defense
Top-ranked Cougars take care of business
Rogers' 3 stuns No.2 Broncos

MORE BASEBALL
An optimistic Griffey ready for fresh start
Documents cast shadows on game
Rodriguez deal has Henry crying for cap
Maddux no novelty act in Chicago
Lopez eager for a fresh start

XAVIER
Finn makes most of shot