Saturday, March 20, 2004
UK: 'Cats pull away in 2nd half to win
Early 'scare' doesn't rattle top seed
By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLUMBUS - The thing about the NCAA Tournament is that the moments appear anxious earlier than usual.
So the fact top-seeded Kentucky led 16th seed Florida A&M by just three points early in the second half Friday qualified as a crisis. For the fans, that is.
The Wildcats? They kept cool and let the Rattlers run themselves into exhaustion in an eventual 96-76 victory at Nationwide Arena.
"We never panic," senior Erik Daniels said.
Said sophomore Kelenna Azubuike: "Losing never crossed our minds."
UK (27-4) advances to a second-round contest at approximately 4:50 p.m. Sunday against the winner of Friday's late Washington-UAB game.
Midway through the second half, UK started on a prolonged 26-7 run as FAMU started coming up short on all the 3-pointers it was hitting earlier. How short? A couple were air balls.
The Wildcats settled down after a pyrotechnic first half that ended 60-52 in their favor, and would shoot 56.5 percent on the night.
It was UK's highest point total in the NCAAs since a 101-70 beating of Utah in 1996.
The Wildcats had five double-figure scorers, led by Gerald Fitch's 26 points. For the second consecutive game, junior forward Chuck Hayes (12 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) came within two assists of a triple-double.
FAMU (15-17), which at No. 287 in the Sagarin computer ratings was lower-rated than any team UK played all season, gave it an interesting test. With a streetball style and hot shooting, it hit 55.3 percent of its first-half shots, including 8-of-17 on 3-pointers.
The 52 points FAMU scored in the first half are the most an opponent has scored on UK in a half since March 4, 2001, when Florida had 56 in the second half of a 94-86 beating of the Wildcats. In NCAA Tournament play, it's the most an opponent has scored in one half since North Carolina had 53 first-half points in a 79-72 victory over UK in 1977.
"They took us to task the first half," UK coach Tubby Smith said. "We regrouped, settled down and did a better job defensively."
The Wildcats, once out of earshot of Smith, said they enjoyed the pace of the first half. But ...
"I love to play that kind of basketball, but that's not the type of game we play," Daniels said.
Said Fitch: "It was fun, but it's not fun when they're scoring, too."
FAMU was within four points with 13:30 to play when it hit the wall. It had no bench to speak of to help. The Wildcats, while cooling the tempo, started beating the Rattlers off the dribble. And UK controlled the inside with 46 points in the paint.
"The fast pace of the game - we had to exert so much energy to stay at a high level the first 30 minutes - I knew we would run out of gas," FAMU coach Mike Gillespie Sr. said.
FAMU shot just 32.1 percent in the second half, finishing at 45.5 percent for the game. Its top scorer, Terrence Woods, had 20 first-half points but finished with 24.
"Kelenna shut down Terrence Woods, and that was the difference in the second half," UK guard Cliff Hawkins said.
The Wildcats spoke of Friday as a lesson to refocus. Future foes won't fold as easily. "It was hopefully just us getting ourselves in tournament form," Fitch said.
Next for UK: vs. Washington/UAB winner, 5 p.m. Sunday.
Team rebounds - 5.
Team rebounds - 3.
3-pointers - FAMU 11-30 (Ayodele 1-2, Harper 1-1, Wilkins 2-9, Tate 1-2, Woods 6-14, White 0-2), UK 11-28 (Daniels 0-1, Hawkins 4-8, Fitch 4-10, Azubuike 2-2, Stockton 0-1, Carrier 0-1, Cote 0-1, Perry 0-1, Barbour 1-3). Technicals - None. Officials - N/A. Attendance - N/A.
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UC: Bobbitt hits game-winner
Daugherty: Little guy not so little in Tourney
ETSU's Smith plays big
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UK: 'Cats pull away in 2nd half to win
Hayes just misses triple-double
Murray St. gets taste of Illini's Big Ten
Cowboys get Sutton's angry halftime message
Wolfpack uses defense to subdue Ragin' Cajuns
Pacific waves goodbye to 5th seed Providence
Maryland sets sights on 'Cuse's sharpshooter
Calhoun could do without matchup
NCAA Tournament at a glance
It's not exactly home, but it's close for the Buckeyes
Tournament chase is all about class
Team by team in the women's field
WNIT: Scoring drought ends MU's season
Victory sends Wilmington to title game
REDS / BASEBALL
Reds pitcher lost for season
2003 Reds finances may have finished in the black
Inside Reds camp
Lidle in Opening Day hunt
Aching Nixon, Garciaparra out of action for Red Sox
BENGALS / NFL
Bengals, Sapp close in on deal
It's official: Keyshawn, Parcells reunited
MND plays nation's top-ranked team for state title
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Colonels discover that the 3 is king
Royals win one for the ages
Mason Co. pushed to the 3-OT brink
Prep sports results, schedules
Silver Minister, Bejarano aim to play spoiler
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