UK's defense puts the pressure on Coppin State

November 21, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - As soon as the Wildcats scored, the pressure defense started.

Kentucky's Chuck Hayes and Kelenna Azubuike forced a turnover in UK's full-court press that guard Patrick Sparks converted into a 3-point shot to start Saturday's season-opening 77-46 victory over Coppin State.

"We have been focusing a lot on defense lately," Azubuike said. "We've been trying to take away the open shots. We forced some turnovers. I think our defensive intensity was good tonight, but it could always be better.

"We got off to a quick start because of our defense. We tried to keep the pressure on and not let up. That's one thing we should be able to do this year."


Kentucky limited Coppin State, which was without two starters, to 24 percent shooting in the first half and 33.3 percent for the game. The losers were just 1-for-12 from 3-point range and seldom got the same open looks that opponents did against Kentucky during two exhibition games. Coppin State also had 22 turnovers.

"Defense is going to be very important to this team," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We need to cause deflections and turnovers. That's something I know we can do a lot of. We didn't make some shots early that can take the wind out of your sails, but I was impressed with our overall defense. Holding them to 24 percent shooting in the first half was outstanding."

Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said other teams likely will have trouble with Kentucky's defense, too.

"They are just so much more athletic than so many of the other teams that we've played in the SEC (Southeastern Conference)," Mitchell said. "Our guys got to see what real athleticism is today. We played against a very, very athletic team. They shot the ball better today than we thought they would. We consider ourselves a good zone team, but they made a lot of shots. A lot of that was because their defense was so good, it got their confidence really going."

Numbers: UK got balanced scoring with 12 players scoring and no Wildcat scoring more than 12. ... Ravi Moss was 2-for-2 from 3-point range and has now made seven straight 3-point shots over the last 11 games. His last miss came on Feb. 18 against Arkansas. ... Kentucky has won 13 straight games when Chuck Hayes has a double-double. He had 12 points and 13 rebounds even though he was just 2-for-9 from the field in what he called "an ugly game." ... Kentucky was 19-for-27 at the foul line. Hayes was 8-for-8 and Randolph Morris 5-for-7. ... Center Shagari Alleyne played 16 minutes and had two of UK's five blocked shots.

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