Moss gives unexpected lift to 'Cats

March 22, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

COLUMBUS, Ohio - With Kentucky's season on the brink of collapse, coach Tubby Smith turned to an unexpected source to revive his team.

Walk-on Ravi Moss hit two 3-pointers in the second half to help Kentucky wipe out a 10-point deficit Sunday before the Wildcats still faltered and lost 76-75 in the NCAA Tournament.

"It just was not our night," said Moss. "We didn't make the plays we did all season. When you do that at his level, you lose. We knew they were a good team. We just didn't do what it took to win."

No one could blame Moss. Kentucky (27-5) trailed 48-40 early in the second half when Moss replaced point guard Cliff Hawkins. He didn't need long to make his presence felt, either.


Moss got a rebound that led to a score by Kelenna Azubuike. Moss, 7-for-17 from 3-point range coming into the game, didn't hesitate when he made a 3-pointer with 11 minutes, 56 seconds to play to start an 11-0 Kentucky run. After twice forcing UAB misses, Moss hit another 3-pointer to cut UAB's lead to 56-55 midway through the second half.

"We just needed somebody to do something," Moss said. "We were not attacking, not being aggressive. Somebody needed to step up and I figured it might as well be me.

"I've shot well here all weekend. I've been shooting well in practice. I just wanted to take my time and hit the shots, which I did."

He played nine minutes in the second half and had six points on 2-for-2 shooting and two rebounds. His 3-point shots shifted the momentum back to UK, which had trailed by 13 points, and helped the Cats eventually take a 69-63 lead with 5:06 to play.

"What a class kid he is and he has been a tremendous asset to our program," Smith said. "He plays with such heart and determination. You could see the lift he gave us. He was the reason we were back in the game. His 3s and defensive enthusiasm were contagious."

Moss said he couldn't believe the lack of aggressiveness he saw from his teammates in the first half when UAB seemed able to dictate the game's tempo almost at will.

"I could not understand what was going on. I was watching it, but not believing it," Moss said.

"Why couldn't we get going? It was killing me. It was frustrating to sit and watch. I knew we had to step up and do something.

"This is the time of year you should be aggressive, not passive. We just didn't have it tonight for some reason. This taste won't leave us for a long time. We know this is a game we could have won."

Moss didn't think it was a case of UK's seniors - Gerald Fitch, Cliff Hawkins, Erik Daniels and Antwain Barbour - wanting to win so badly that they let it impact their play.

"These guys are veterans. They don't tighten up," Moss said. "They've played, and won, a lot of close games. For whatever reason, we just didn't have it tonight. They just played better than we did and that's why they won and we lost."

Numbers: The Wildcats are now 10-3 in second-round NCAA games since 1992. ... Chuck Hayes had a team-high 11 rebounds, his 19th career game with double-digit rebounds. ... Daniels had his fifth career-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Daniels finished ninth on UK's all-time career field goal percentage list at 55.2 (447-for-809). He shot 58.1 percent (201-for-346) this season. ... Hawkins finished his UK career seventh on the all-time assists list with 467 and was third in steals at 198. ... Kelenna Azubuike tied his career high with two blocked shots. ... Kentucky did not allow an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field. ... UK lost for only the second time in 23 games when outrebounding its opponent.

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