Offensive execution is key to Kentucky's victory over UNC

January 04, 2004|JILL ERWIN

LEXINGTON - To Erik Daniels, the answer was simple: execution.

It was the reason Kentucky could score a season-low 20 points in the first half, then turn around and shoot 55 percent in the second half on the way to a 61-56 victory over North Carolina Saturday at Rupp Arena.

And Daniels said that was the key to the game.

"The second half, we just kept our composure and took control of the game," Daniels said. "We just came out with a lot more energy. I started getting better position on offense, and I was just taking my time and making shots."

Daniels scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, hitting 7 of 9 shots after the break. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in the game, four of them offensive, to notch his second consecutive double-double and third of the season.


But Daniels wasn't the only one to have a much better second half than first half. The Wildcats went 4-for-7 in opening up a 10-2 lead. But after a timeout, the Cats hit just 4 of 24 shots the rest of the way and finished the half at 26 percent shooting.

"I just think we weren't taking our time in the first half," Daniels said. "We were kind of rushing it and we were excited because it's a big game."

Tubby Smith was far from enthused about Kentucky's play in the first half. But he also said a lion's share of the credit had to go to the Tar Heels and their defense.

"It was good defense on North Carolina's part and poor shot selection by us," Smith said. "They were really overplaying, denying and pushing us out of our offense."

Smith said his team was being cautious in the first half, and Daniels said his coach had plenty to say at halftime.

"He got on us the whole time," Daniels said. "We knew we had to come out and play with more energy because we didn't play with much energy in the first half. We just weren't playing our type of basketball."

Kentucky was able to work the ball inside by being patient in the second half. UK's first three baskets after halftime were layups, one each from Daniels, Gerald Fitch and Chuck Hayes, and the Cats outscored Carolina 24-14 in the paint in the second half.

"We felt like we could post him (Daniels) up inside," Smith said. "Erik's a pretty smart player inside, pretty crafty, and Bernard (Cote) was able to find him open and his willingness to pass the ball today was really beneficial."

Daniels finished the game 9-for-14 from the field, helping Kentucky shoot 40.3 percent for the game. Point guard Cliff Hawkins wasn't as lucky as he finished 1-for-13, including an 0-for-6 showing in Kentucky's poor first half. The Cats had more turnovers than field goals in the first half.

Raymond Felton started the game with a basket to give Carolina a 2-0 lead, but Kentucky rattled off the next 10 points. Included in that run were back-to-back baskets by Daniels and a 3-pointer from Fitch.

But just like against Louisville last Saturday, that early lead was quickly gone. Carolina went ahead 28-20 at the half and led 30-20 on a basket by Sean May to open the second half. However, a 19-6 run by Kentucky eventually put the Cats up 45-41 and Carolina would never lead again.

"When we started off hot in the second half, we just kept it going with our defense," Daniels said. "In the first half we just kind of lost it. We were playing lazy and we weren't very aggressive. The second half, we just stayed aggressive the entire half.

"We just kept our composure. Guys knew we had to get the win, we buckled down and did the things we needed to do."

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