Officials, not team, frustrate Smith

January 21, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

KNOXVILLE - Tubby Smith might have been frustrated, but Gerald Fitch was relieved.

Kentucky outlasted Tennessee 69-68 in overtime here Tuesday to avoid losing consecutive Southeastern Conference games. However, the Kentucky coach was anything but giddy after his team got a 3-point shot from Cliff Hawkins with 16.3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and then won despite not scoring the final 3 minutes, 47 seconds of overtime.

"I'm frustrated by something else tonight other than my team," said Smith. "My team was fine. I can't talk about what I am frustrated about."

That's because SEC rules prohibit coaches from criticizing officials. The Wildcats were 18-for-26 at the foul line while Tennessee was 30-for-36. In the second half, the Volunteers made 22 of 23 free throws while Kentucky shot just six free throws and made four.


Kentucky was called for 30 fouls, including 17 in the second half. Tennessee was called for 19 fouls, but just five came in the second half and the Vols were not called for a foul in the final 11 minutes.

Was Smith frustrated by what he couldn't talk about in both halves?

"Yes," he answered without any further comment.

The coach obviously was miffed despite the win that kept his team tied for the top spot in the SEC Eastern Division. The Wildcats blew a 15-point lead in the second half and had 23 turnovers.

"I doubt we are ever going to find any consistency," Smith said.

The Cats certainly didn't get any consistent shooting from Fitch, their leading scorer. He finished the game 1-for-13, including 0-for-9 from 3-point range, and had just five points. He was just 2-for-9 from the field with 10 points in Saturday's loss to Georgia in UK's previous game.

"My shot is broke again," Fitch said. "The ball felt good coming off my fingers. I don't know what is wrong.

"I let the team down. They didn't do anything special against me. They did not bother me. I just missed a lot of open shots that I should have made."

However, Fitch did help keep Tennessee's top scorer, Scooter McFadgon, who had 33 points and was 13-for-13 at the foul line, from scoring at the end of regulation or overtime when he could have won the game.

"I just didn't want to foul him. With the way they were calling the game, you didn't know what might happen," Fitch said.

"This would really have been a tough game to lose. But we were able to win and that's what counts the most. With the way the game went and the lead we let slip away, I'm more relieved than anything that we won. This would have been a bad loss."

Board master: Kentucky junior Chuck Hayes set a new career high by pulling off 16 rebounds against the Vols, including the final one to secure UK's victory.

One of his six offensive rebounds came in overtime when he tipped in his own missed shot to give UK a 69-68 lead with 3:47 to play. That turned out to be the last time either team scored.

"We had been getting beat on the boards and coach Smith had really emphasized that we had to rebound better," Hayes said. "I was just fortunate to be in the right spots at the right time."

Sophomore walk-on Ravi Moss also pulled off a career-high five rebounds, including four on the offensive end, in just 10 minutes of play.

"He brings that physical play that we need. You could tell that by the way he went after offensive rebounds," Smith said. "He busts his butt every day in practice. Five rebounds in 10 minutes tells you about his toughness."

Even point guard Cliff Hawkins got six rebounds, his second highest total of the season, to help UK win the rebounding battle 47-35.

"The guards have to get in there and try to help rebound more. We are not that big and it's not hard for teams to outrebound us if we all don't do our part," Hawkins said.

Honored: Former UK All-American Jamal Mashburn was named to ESPN's SEC Silver Anniversary Team at halftime of Tuesday's game.

Joining him on the team were Auburn's Chuck Person, Tennessee's Allan Houston, and LSU's Chris Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal.

"You can't argue with any of those players," Kenny Walker, another former UK All-American, said. "Those guys were all great college players. Picking any all-star team is hard, but those are five awfully good players."

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