Indiana will be next test for No. 1 UK

December 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Some coaches might not look forward to playing the nation's top-ranked team. Indiana coach Mike Davis has a different perspective.

Since Kentucky has beaten the Hoosiers in eight of the last 10 meetings, Davis hopes Kentucky's No. 1 ranking will help his team when the rivals play Saturday at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

"Any time you can play the best team in the country, you have to look forward to it," said Davis. "Kentucky is a really good team."

Despite UK's recent success in the series, Davis says this is a game everyone on both sides seems to enjoy and why the 40,000 or more fans at Saturday's game will probably be equally split among UK and Indiana fans.


"The fans get excited, the players get excited," said Davis. "We've been dominated by Kentucky for awhile. We are going to try to go in and make sure we give them a good game.

"It's the first time we've played them, since I've been the coach, where they've been number one when we played them and that's a challenge within itself. But I don't think we've ever been favored in a game (against Kentucky.)

Indiana (4-3) will be playing its sixth straight team that made the 2003 NCAA Tournament, including a third straight meeting with a 2003 Sweet Sixteen team.

The Hoosiers have lost to Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Missouri, but they have wins over Notre Dame and Butler in their last two outings.

"They are coming on," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "They have a lot of potential. A guy like Bracey Wright can beat you on any given night if you don't keep him under control."

Wright, Fitch are both Player of the Week

Wright was named the Big Ten Player of the Week last week after averaging 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in Indiana's two most recent wins. He's now scored in double figures in 10 straight games and has scored at least 20 points in 13 of 37 games he's played at Indiana.

"He's not had a great game for us yet," Davis said of his sophomore guard. "We'd really like him to score a little more than what he's scoring. He needs to be more aggressive offensively. He can score 25, 26 a game if he was just a little more aggressive. On drives to the basket, he's passed the ball a lot and I'd love for him to take those shots."

Kentucky senior guard Gerald Fitch was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after scoring 25 points in Saturday's win over Michigan State and could be matched against Wright.

"Gerald is playing well," Smith said. "It's a team game and Gerald understands every point he gets is off how we play as a team.

"But we are really proud of Gerald. He was coming off a tough shooting game at UCLA and really bounced back. If we get that type play out of him on a regular basis, we will be pretty tough. He was really feeling it. One shot he took in front of our bench I was yelling for him to pass, but it went in so that was okay."

Fitch is averaging 20.4 points per game, but Davis says it's hard to stop him because of the play of UK point guard Cliff Hawkins, who averages 11.2 points and almost six assists per game.

"Gerald is having a good year, which is what you want out of your seniors," Davis said. "He's played with (Keith) Bogans in the past and now it's his time to step up and play, and he's playing lights out. He's shooting the 3 well, he wants the ball in the clutch. There's really nothing you can do other than defend him as hard as you can.

"The key with him is that he has Hawkins right alongside him. Hawkins is an outstanding point guard. He's underrated as a basketball player and with he and Fitch, the way they're playing, they're the best backcourt in the country."

Indiana started last year's game with a 17-8 lead but lost 70-64. Davis was ejected after receiving two technical fouls for coming on the court to protest no foul being called when UK's Jules Camara blocked Wright's shot in the final minute.

"We have to execute a lot better (to win)," Davis said. "Once you hit a little lull offensively where you're not cutting and screening, they're really good. Tubby has them playing outstanding basketball defensively and we don't need moments in the game where we just play casual and not at a good pace."

Central Kentucky News Articles