Kentucky's shooters feel the chill

February 01, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - If Vanderbilt's game plan was to force Kentucky to take, and miss, outside shots, it worked perfectly.

The Wildcats were 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the second half and missed their last 14 3-pointers.

Leading scorer Gerald Fitch was 5-for-17 from the field, including 1-for-10 from 3-point range. Kelenna Azubuike was 5-for-17 overall and just 2-for-6 from 3-point range.

Those numbers helped Vanderbilt rally to beat the No. 5 Wildcats 66-60 Saturday. However, winning coach Kevin Stallings said the last thing his team wanted to do was give Fitch, who came into the game averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting 43 percent from the field, that many open shots.

"It was just totally his bad day. I would like to credit our defense, but he was just open and missed," Stallings said. "We think he's going to make every shot. He's a great shooter. For whatever reason, he just was not on. But we were just defended Kentucky normally with an emphasis on not letting Fitch kill us."


Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said perhaps Fitch and Azubuike played too long. Fitch played 37 minutes, his third longest stint of the year, and Azubuike a career-high 36 minutes. Azubuike was 1-for-8 from the field the second half and Fitch 2-for-10.

"Both Gerald and Kelenna played too many minutes. It looked like their shots were coming up short," Smith said.

Senior Antwain Barbour had gone 4-for-5 from 3-point range in UK's win Wednesday over Mississippi. However, he played just four minutes Saturday and did not take a shot.

Smith did not mention Barbour's lack of playing time in his press conference, and Barbour was not available to the media.

Fitch said he should have made far more shots than he did.

"They were swarming on me a little bit, but that's nothing unusual," Fitch said. "I just could not get in my rhythm. They didn't do anything different than any other team has. It was just one of those days. The 3-pointers just were not falling."

Azubuike offered almost the same explanation.

"The shots just were not falling," Azubuike said. "It wasn't that we were not getting good shots. We were, but we couldn't make them.

"There were a a lot of things we didn't do well, but not making open shots was the worst thing. Maybe we should have gone inside with the ball more, but we even missed shots when we did that."

Smith had no idea why the Cats were so ineffective. They shot just 37.3 percent (25-for-67) from the field.

"We got the ball right where we wanted a lot of times, but we didn't finish plays," Smith said.

He said that showed in UK's lack of free throws, too. Kentucky was 7-for-9 at the foul line compared to Vanderbilt's 19-for-26.

"We would be going to the basket and guys would close their eyes and worry about getting hit instead of finishing (the play)," Smith said. "For the most part, we handled things they did. We just could not make a shot."

Numbers: This was the first time in 14 outings that Kentucky has lost when scoring 60 or more points. ... Vanderbilt's 40-35 halftime lead marked only the third time this season the Wildcats had trailed at halftime. ... Vanderbilt's 12-point lead in the first half was the largest deficit UK has faced this season. ... Chuck Hayes did not have a field goal for Kentucky for almost 33 minutes. ... Kentucky's last conference road loss was at Vanderbilt on Feb. 27, 2002. The Cats had won 10 straight SEC road games before Saturday.

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