Wildcats rout Eastern, now turn attention to Louisville

December 24, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Travis Ford doesn't expect Louisville coach Rick Pitino to call him for a scouting report on Kentucky.

But if his former coach at UK did call him to ask how to beat the Wildcats Saturday in Rupp Arena, what would Ford tell him?

"Wow. That's a good question," said Ford after watching UK, ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and No. 2 in The Associated Press poll, beat his team 101-72 here Tuesday.

Kentucky (7-0) limited Eastern to just 23.5 percent shooting (4-for-17) from 3-point range, including 0-for-8 in the first half. The Cats shot 64.2 percent, had four starters score in double figures and had 28 assists on their season-high 43 field goals.


"You better just hope they have an off night," Ford said. "Pray they don't make 3's. You better handle their pressure. Cliff Hawkins is great on defense. Fitch is good. Everybody plays aggressive defense. They are very physical.

"You have to try and take care of the ball and get good looks at the basket, but that's difficult to do."

Ford was the point guard on UK's 1993 team that Pitino took to the Final Four.

He still takes time to watch the Wildcats play and he knew before his Colonels played in Rupp Arena that UK coach Tubby Smith had his team playing exceptionally well.

"Kentucky is a great team," Ford said. "They have no weaknesses. When they shoot like that, they really are a fun team to watch.

"You just don't see a weakness. They have all the pieces. They play hard and play terrific together. It is a very good team. They know how to set screens to get open and they are physical doing it. They just know how to play and play together. They are an unbelievable team. They are tough to prepare for because they do so much well."

Ford said his team wanted to stop UK from getting easy shots inside and not allow the Cats to get quick open shots.

"We didn't do either of those things well and a lot of that is attributed to them forcing us into (25) turnovers," Ford said.

"We didn't want to give them open 3s, but good teams find ways to get open shots and when they did, they made them."

Smith said Monday that he hoped his team would keep its focus on Eastern and not look ahead to Saturday's game with Louisville. After the easy win, he refused to speculate on what impact the easy win would have Saturday.

"I don't know what it translates into," Smith said. "I'll tell you after the game."

Louisville beat UK 81-63 last year.

The Cats have not lost a regular season game since then and this year they've trailed a total of only 67 seconds in their seven wins.

Smith said he likely won't show his team film of last year's game with Louisville.

"We've probably got enough film to watch from this season," Smith said.

Ford knows how intense the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry can be, but he also knows how well Kentucky is playing.

"All I'll say is that someone is going to have to play awfully well to beat this team, especially in Rupp Arena," the Eastern Kentucky coach said.

Uncomfortable: Smith took his starters out of the game when UK built an 18-4 lead in less than six minutes. Kentucky outscored Eastern only 30-28 the next 14 minutes and Smith often looked upset at what he saw, especially from his reserves.

"I had to go to the bathroom and could not leave the bench," Smith said laughing. "That's all."

Assistance: Kentucky center Erik Daniels had eight assists and four steals, both career-highs. He also had 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

"It's just as much fun to make a good pass as it is to score," Daniels said. "Coach Smith wants us to always think pass first and this team buys into that. Nobody is selfish, and it shows."

Kentucky had 43 field goals and was credited with 22 assists, including six each by guards Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins.

Numbers: Kentucky got 62 points in the paint and 29 points off turnovers ... Freshman Shagari Alleyne and Lukasz Obrzut both had six points, their highest totals at UK ... Kentucky had 97 points with 6:19 to play but got only two dunks from Alleyne the remainder of the game.

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