Vaught's Views: Even Tubby is second-guessing

December 31, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith and Kentucky basketball fans have a lot in common, including second-guessing everything the coaching staff did before, during and after Saturday's loss to Louisville.

Kentucky fans have wondered about Smith's lack of depth, unproductive offense and pregame preparation since the Wildcats lost 65-56 to Louisville on Sunday.

But the Kentucky coach apparently is just as hard on himself.

"You second-guess everything," Smith said Tuesday. "I've second-guessed every decision that was made. You do that whether things go right or wrong."

Smith says he normally watches the game film by himself before reviewing it again with the team and sometimes with his staff. He did that again after Saturday's loss and found a lot to contemplate.


Did he make a mistake by having the Wildcats switch who they were guarding in their man-to-man defense more often than usual based on what the Cardinals did during a set play? Did he fail to substitute enough? Was it wrong to keep the team here for Christmas rather than taking a day or two off for the holiday?

"I could go on with this all day, to be honest with you, but I want to move on to Austin Peay," Smith said. "I'll be happy to talk about Austin Peay from now on."

Still, most of Smith's pre-game press conference Tuesday centered on what went wrong Saturday rather than what Kentucky would have to do to beat 3-6 Austin Peay tonight in Louisville.

"Talk about second-guessing," Smith said after being asked what was wrong with leading scorer Gerald Fitch's offense against Louisville. "This is second-guessing."

It was, but the second-guessing won't stop until the Wildcats prove that Saturday's loss was not a true indicator of their ability. Never mind that until UK lost, the Cats were No. 1 in the coaches' poll and No. 2 in The Associated Press ratings and being toasted from coast to coast because of their 7-0 start.

Now almost everyone is wondering if this team can respond like it did last year, when it won 26 games after losing to Louisville, or if highly-regarded North Carolina will put another loss on the Cats Saturday in Rupp Arena (which might still be rocking from tonight's Montgomery Gentry concert that is certain to send the fans home happy, as opposed to what happened Saturday).

"This is not the time to be listening to radio call-in shows, reading the (Internet) message boards or looking at the sports news," Fitch said. "I'm pretty sure if you did, you would get your feelings hurt. I would not advise anybody on our team to look or listen to any of that stuff."

Yet even Fitch sounded unsure about how this team could respond.

"Losing to Louisville this year just felt different," he said. "It's just a totally different feeling from last year. I don't know why."

Maybe backup point guard Brandon Stockton does. A year ago Kentucky was already struggling when it lost to Louisville. This year the Wildcats were being told they were unbeatable despite Smith's warnings that the team's defense and shot selection were both questionable.

"We were ranked No. 1, and maybe it gave some of us the big-head," Stockton said. "It's still a long season, but maybe this was the wake-up call we needed."

If it wasn't, then the real se-cond-guessing had better start.

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