Cats trying to find the right chemistry

December 10, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Kentucky learned its most important lesson last season when it was torn apart by Louisville just before the start of Southeastern Conference play.

That loss helped teach the Wildcats the value of teamwork and defense, two key ingredients in their eventual 26-game winning streak that got them within one game of the Final Four.

Now coach Tubby Smith is hoping Saturday's 52-50 win at UCLA can be the same type of learning lesson. The Cats shot just 27.1 percent (16-for-59) from the field, the team's lowest mark since a dismal 24.5 percent (13-for-53) against Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four.

"We need to concentrate on getting the ball inside and then pitching it back out," Smith said. "We got away from our game plan and started doing things one on one. We are not a very good team one on one.


"We had a lot of open shots. If those shots fall, you probably would not have seen players trying to create shots for themselves."

Smith acknowledged on his weekly radio show Monday that his team is still learning to play without guard Keith Bogans and center Marquis Estill, UK's top two scorers last season.

"We have to get that right chemistry," Smith said. "We had that last year when we could play a two-man game with Keith and Marquis. Everybody is still learning new roles this year."

Smith said he also learned something in Saturday's loss. His team got off to a fast start thanks to its full-court press. However, Kentucky came out of the press for two reasons: Smith worried the team was going to fatigue because of the trip to California, and the Cats quit making shots.

"You've got to score to get in the press, and we couldn't score," Smith said. "We are going to work on pressing after turnovers and missed shots. We've also got to create more energy and pressure when we come with people off the bench. They should be fresh and up the pressure rather than letting it slack off."

Kentucky returns to action Saturday in Detroit when they take on Michigan State at Ford Field, home of the NFL's Detroit Lions, in front of an anticipated 70,000 or more fans who are expected to set a new attendance record for a college basketall game.

"Michigan State is always very physical," Smith said. "They are struggling a little bit now, but they have played an unbelievable schedule with their losses coming to Kansas, Duke and Oklahoma. They just are not shooting very well."

Smith said former UCLA coach John Wooden gave him a warning about Saturday's game based on his experience years ago when he took a team to the Astrodome in Houston to play. Elvin Hayes led Houston to an upset of Lew Alcindor's UCLA-led team in that game.

"He said, 'It was the worst place to play, and you are not going to like it (Ford Field)," Smith said. "The court probably will be raised, much like a boxing ring. People sitting courtside probably will have to look up to see the game.

"Most outdoor football fields have a crown on them, and you could put the court on top of it and still have a good view. But I imagine an indoor football field is level and the court will have to be elevated. It will be a different atmosphere, but hopefully we will make a few more shots than we did last game."


* Kentucky has now won 24 straight regular-season games.

* Kentucky's 4-0 start is is best since the 1998-99 season. UK has not started a year with five straight wins since its 1992-93 Final Four team opened the year 11-0.

* The Wildcats are ranked eighth in this week's Associated Press poll. UK has beein the AP poll 47 straight weeks, the fourth longest streak in the nation.

* Senior guard Gerald Fitch needs two points Saturday to become the 60th member of UK's 1,000-point club.

* Senior point guard Cliff Hawkins is now 10th on UK's all-time assists list with 331.

* Kentucky has outrebounded all four opponents this season.

Central Kentucky News Articles