UK Notebook: A&M rattles Hawkins, but senior regroups

March 21, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

COLUMBUS, Ohio - His competitive nature is one of the attributes that makes Cliff Hawkins such a good point guard for Kentucky. It can also be what causes him problems at times.

Against Florida A&M Friday, Hawkins seemed to let the Rattlers get to him several times during Kentucky's 96-76 victory.

"It was probably a good experience for him," UK assistant Dave Hobbs said. "Teams are going to try and do a lot of things to disrupt, or even intimidate, him. They want to get him off his game. He's got to realize that and stay under control.

"I thought he kept his cool for the most part and didn't get caught up too bad in what they were doing. He came right back at his guy several times and still made some big plays."

Hawkins had 14 points, four assists and two steals in 25 minutes of play, but he also had five turnovers, took several bad shots and exchanged words with A&M players. After playing 18 minutes in the first half, he played just seven minutes the second half after picking up his second and third fouls in a 20-second span early in the half.


The senior guard did not shake hands with Florida A&M players after the game. He answered questions from the podium during postgame interviews, but stayed in the UK training room for treatment on an unspecified injury after that.

"The beginning of the game, we really had our hands full," Hawkins said in the interview room. "They were breaking us down at will off the dribble. We were expecting a tough battle, but they really took a lot of shots at us."

His teammates sensed that Hawkins was upset during and after the game.

"He's just a little frustrated," Chuck Hayes said after Friday's game. "He has had some injuries. His back has been bothering him. But I think he's more frustrated than anything right now."

Former UK point guard Saul Smith doesn't think Hawkins will have any trouble putting the game behind him when the Cats face Alabama-Birmingham in today's second-round game.

"He has all the attributes you want in a point guard," Saul Smith, a volunteer manager on this year's UK team, said. "The point guard has got to be your smartest player. He does a spectacular job controlling his emotions considering everything that is thrown at him. He's not a rah-rah guy, but he's emotional.

"He is not going to let opponents dictate what he can and cannot do. He always does the job. There's no question teams are going to try and disrupt him. They make think that is the only way to beat us. He's the head of the monster. They try to cut off that head, but he won't let them because when he's running the team the way he can, we're tough to beat."

Hawkins backed up Smith three years ago when UK lost to Southern California in a NCAA third-round game. Smith says there no comparison between Hawkins then and now.

"He's improved so much from day one until now," Smith said. "It's not like he had a bad game tonight. His numbers were still pretty good."

Hawkins was 5-for-9 from the field, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range. He also had three rebounds and even blocked a shot.

"He was always athletic and competitive. It was just a matter of improving some skills and he's done that," Smith said. "His jumper now is really solid. His decision-making is improved. I see him on film every day and marvel at some of the decisions he makes. If he did get rattled tonight, he still did a lot of good things."

Triple double: Hayes flirted with a rare triple-double for the third time this season before finishing with 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in Friday's win.

"I probably would have had it if I had taken care of the ball," Hayes, who had four turnovers, said. "I'm just out there playing the game. I pass the ball, rebound it. If I have to score, I'll do that. But I really want that triple-double."

He's never reached double figures in points, rebounds and assists in the same game at any level of play. He also knows Chris Mills is the only player at Kentucky ever to have a triple-double.

Hayes looked like a lock at halftime to reach the mark when he already had seven points, seven assists and six rebounds. However, the pace of the game slowed in the second half and he also sat out six minutes, including the final four.

"I can't believe that," Hayes said when told about his halftime numbers. "Why can't I get it? I had no idea I was that close already at halftime."

He says his favorite player is New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd, who regularly has triple-doubles.

"I've wanted to have one since I started playing basketball," Hayes said. "It would be a huge accomplishment.

"With all the All-American players and Hall of Fame players that have played at Kentucky, it's remarkable that only one player has ever done it. I just have to keep trying. Maybe I need to get the 10 assists first in the game because that is what keeps stopping me. Then when I get the assists, I can go after the points."

Hayes has had 13 games where he reached double figures in both rebounding and scoring.

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