UK's passing can frustrate opponents

March 16, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If there is one thing Kentucky does better than play defense, it would be pass the basketball.

"The first thing is that you have to want to pass the basketball. In our program, you don't get a choice," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "You either pass or sit. If you don't pass the ball, you are going to hear about it. I don't care who it is, either. "

Smith noticed early in the season that his veteran players were reluctant to throw the ball inside to freshman Lukasz Obrzut because they didn't feel he could finish plays.

"That was a problem for us early. Our guys thought somebody couldn't deliver, so they wouldn't pass," Smith said. "The guys didn't execute their jobs. It takes time to understand that because most guys think they can do more. Sometimes you have to decrease for us to increase. Guys had to learn that they had to make the passes that plays called for if we were going to be the best team we could."


The Wildcats obviously learned their lessons. They are 26-4 going into the NCAA Tournament and ranked No. 1 in the 65-team field. Kentucky has won its last nine games, including three in the Southeastern Conference Tournament that left rivals impressed with UK's passing ability.

"They are all great passers," South Carolina's Carlos Powell said. "Once your trap one of them, two more cut to the basket and they always get the ball to somebody that is open.

"They play with so much togetherness. They are really good at passing and playing together. Just when you think you have them, then they get two or three really easy shots that just kill you."

Kentucky's Chuck Hayes, who had eight assists in Sunday's SEC title game win over Florida, senses that opponents do get frustrated with UK's offensive efficiency.

"It kills teams. They work hard for 26 seconds or so and then they give up an easy shot. It takes a lot of wind out of them," Hayes said. "I think that can be very devastating to a defense to work that hard and then give up an easy shot.

"Experience definitely plays a key factor in that. We have guys who have been through a lot and seen so much that some things just come easy and natural. We know how to make passes to get the shots we want."

South Carolina guard says UK must be nation's best passing team

South Carolina guard Josh Gonner says UK has to be the nation's best passing team.

"They just have a lot of veteran players that know the system," Gonner said. "They always know where someone will be.

"You get so frustrated trying to play against them. You defend them, stop them and have them in trouble, then they just make a great pass to get an open shot. They play with so much poise. They always stay with their game plan until they eventually wear the defense down. You know what they are going to do, but you can't stop them."

Point guard Cliff Hawkins leads Kentucky in assists.

"He just has a knack of finding people when they are open and getting the ball to them at the right time," Smith said.

The Kentucky coach says Hayes and Erik Daniels are also extraordinary passers.

"They are two of the best passing post players I've ever coached," Smith said. "We try to recruit guys with good hands that know how to do more than just rebound. Both of these guys have the ability to find open people."

South Carolina's Kerbrell Brown said UK's offense can be "intimidating" to face.

"They don't look like they should be that good, but they are great," Brown said. "They don't look intimidating, but they just keep winning. You think you can play with them, but they won't let you. They intimidate you with their passing. You know no matter how well you defend them, they will eventually find an open man and get an open shot. Teams that have not played them yet don't know what they are in for."

Central Kentucky News Articles