Hayes' 'nice line' helps Cats win

March 08, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He's not a senior, but junior Chuck Hayes had as much to do with Kentucky's Senior Day win as any of his older teammates.

Hayes had what Kentucky coach Tubby Smith called a "nice line" in No. 9 UK's 82-62 victory over Florida here Sunday.

Hayes was 4-for-8 from the field and scored 12 points. He also had 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, and handed out a career-high six assists. Hayes also managed one steal in his 31 minutes of play.

"Chuck is always banging the boards," said Smith. "He's our stabilizer inside, a force who goes after every rebound. I was really impressed with the way he played today."


Hayes was hoping his overall statistical line might have been a little better. He has had a two-year competition with teammate Erik Daniels to see who can have a triple-double first. Hayes was on pace with six points, nine rebounds and four assists at halftime before his production tailed off slightly the second half.

Daniels also was within reach of the rare triple-double as he had 15 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

"I was flirting with that triple-double, but I couldn't quite get it," Hayes said. "It would have been something to get it in this game, but I'm just as happy that we won.

"I'm always willing to do whatever I can to help us win. If there is a time I need to score, I'll score. I'm pretty unselfish. It's just that today, we were really able to pound them inside."

When Kentucky does "pound" an opponent inside, it usually wins. The Cats have won 16 straight games when Hayes rebounds in double figures, and the Cats are 12-0 in Hayes' career when he has a double-double like he did Sunday.

"Coach Smith has questioned our toughness at times this season, but we were all jacked up to play this game," Hayes said. "We are playing well. We are playing with confidence and a little swagger right now. We're not cocky, but we are confident. We like where we are, going into the SEC Tournament."

Kentucky will play the Auburn-Georgia winner Friday in Atlanta. Georgia beat UK twice during the regular season and cost the Cats a chance to win the regular-season conference championship.

"If we do play Georgia again, there will be a bit of a chip on our shoulder. But we really don't care who we play. You still have to win," Hayes said. "I don't think the matchup with Georgia is a problem mentally. If we do get to play them again, we'll be ready to match up with them."

Praising Kentucky: Florida coach Billy Donovan was careful not to tab UK as the clear SEC Tournament favorite. However, he certainly let it be known that beating the Wildcats would not be easy for any SEC team.

"They are very tough to play when they shoot like they did in the second half (18-for-38 overall, 6-for-12 3-point)," Donovan said. "You have to force Hayes and Daniels to score because they are great passers. You have to give up some points inside to cut down on their outside scorers.

"And the thing about Kentucky is that they have six outstanding players who play a lot of minutes. They have been through a lot of battles and they have a lot of experience. Beating them is not going to be easy."

Numbers: Smith is now 14-4 overall against Florida, including 10-4 at UK. ... Kentucky used a 14-2 run in the first half to take a 31-17 lead and a 17-0 run in just over two minutes of the second half to build a 52-29 lead. ... Kentucky is 14-0 this season when scoring 69 or more points and 16-0 when holding the opposition under 64 points. ... Florida shot 38.8 percent from the field. No opponent has hit 50 percent from the field this season against Kentucky. ... Kentucky had five players in double figures for the second time in three games. ... The Cats' plus-27 rebounding margin was its best since outrebounding Indiana by 29 in December. ... Kentucky won the bench scoring 17-2 and has now outscored the opponent's bench in six of the last seven games. ... Kentucky is 4-0 when Erik Daniels gets a double-double and 5-0 when he gets 10 or more rebounds. ... The last time UK had two players with a double-double in the same game was when Hayes and Daniels did it Dec. 20 against Indiana. ... Kentucky is 10-0 when Gerald Fitch scores 20 or more points. Fitch's 21 points Sunday gives him 1,291 at UK and moved him past Jim Master (1,283) and Sam Bowie (1,285) into 26th place on UK's all-time scoring list. ... Cliff Hawkins' two steals Sunday moved him into fifth place on UK's career list with 186 steals. ... Kentucky is 7-0 when Antwain Barbour, who had 12 points, scores in double figures. ... Daniels needs 14 points to reach the 1,000-point plateau.

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