LSU another big challenge for Wildcats

February 27, 2004|MARTY WARREN

LEXINGTON - Not having a starter over 6-8 would hamper most Division I teams. However, it hasn't stopped Kentucky's Erik Daniels, Chuck Hayes and Kelenna Azubuike from more than holding their own against opposing teams.

The Wildcats will face another big challenge Sunday when the they travel to LSU.

Kentucky completely shut down Tennessee center Brandon Crump Wednesday night when it limited the junior center to just six points and six rebounds, and the Wildcats will need the same type of effort Sunday against the Tigers (17-7, 7-6 in SEC).

The Tigers have a talented trio of post men that includes senior Jaime Lloreda, the fifth leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference at 17.2 points per game, and freshmen Regis Koundjia and Brandon Bass.

Lloreda and Koundjia both missed the Vanderbilt game, but returned to play sparingly against Mississippi State. Koundjia was out due to a knee sprain, while Lloreda had a variety of injuries that included bursitis, a sprained right ankle and, most recently, a heel bruise on his left foot. Both are expected to play Sunday against the Wildcats.


Lloreda not only is he the fifth leading scorer in the SEC, he is also second in field goal percentage (.591), leads the league in rebounding at 11.6 per game and is ninth in the conference in blocked shots at 1.29 per game.

Hayes knows the importance of keeping the ball from Lloreda and company down on the block.

"Coach (Tubby) Smith stresses the importance of doubling the ball down low," Hayes, Kentucky's leader in rebounds and blocked shots, said.

A win would give the Cats the Eastern Division outright

While the Wildcats know they can win the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division outright with a win over the Tigers, Azubuike warned everyone not to look ahead.

"We can't worry about winning the division, our main focus for Sunday is on LSU," Azubuike said. "Playing down there will be a challenge. I'm sure their crowd will be fired up. Our game plan will probably focus on trying to keep the ball away from Lloreda. He can hurt us in so many ways."

Which is something that Hayes hopes Kentucky can do to their opponents the rest of the season.

"We are coming down the stretch and that is really when we need to come together as a team," Hayes said. "We're making big strides in that area. Everybody is playing hard and having fun."

Playing LSU in front of a hostile crowd is nothing new for Kentucky.

"We bring out the best in everybody," Hayes added. "This team reminds me a lot of Auburn. They were probably the most aggressive team that we have faced all year, and I'm sure (LSU) is going to get after us, too. Everybody plays hard and is physical with us because they know that is the way we like to play. That's what we expect from our opponents."

Everyone talked about the Cats bench play early in the season, but the junior forward said there was no need to worry.

"This team has a lot of different types of abilities," Hayes said.

"If we come together and play, there is no reason we can't go as deep as anyone in the country. Our bench is playing better. They just needed some confidence. We need Woo (Lukasz Obrzut), Bobby (Perry) and (Sheray) Thomas to really step up their game. They have done that lately, and it has made us a better team.

"Right now we are trying to come together and get our chemistry right. It's falling into place. We have the conference tournament and those six games (NCAA Tournament) at the end that we need to win. That's our goal right now."

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