UK Notebook: What's wrong with Azubuike?

November 24, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

CINCINNATI - For a player who thought this would be his year to shine, Kelenna Azubuike is not off to the kind of start he wanted.

After going just 2-for-8 from the field in the season-opening win over Coppin State, Azubuike made just three of seven shots here Tuesday night in a 73-53 win over Ball State.

"The shots just are not falling," said a subdued Azubuike. "I just have to go watch film to see why and then try to bounce back."

He did had seven rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot in 27 minutes of play and also drew praise from Kentucky coach Tubby Smith for his overall defensive play.


"When you are not making shots, you have to do something else to contribute," Azubuike, UK's best shooter in two exhibition games, said. "It's not really anything the defenses are doing to keep me from making shots. I just need to be more aggressive .

"I don't think I am pressing. My shots just are not falling. Nothing is wrong except that I missed shots."

The Kentucky coach thinks being asked to play a bigger role on this year's team along with some personal concerns over his family might be taking a toll on Azubuike.

"He's been pressing a little bit," Smith said. "People are also honing in on him and Chuck (Hayes). They are our bread and butter because they are our most experienced players. People are doing what they can to keep the ball away from them. His shooting percentage has slipped some, but with the things he's dealing with, he's doing it in the right way.

"I was glad to see him make a late shot so he can build on that. I thought his defense was sound. He also got to the boards well."

Even with Azubuike struggling to make shots, the Cats still pulled away in the second half to win convincingly.

"We have a good team," Azubuike said. "We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. Patrick (Sparks) had a good game. Shagari (Alleyne) was great. Chuck played well. We are about more than one person."

Ball State coach Tim Buckley said that versatility is what makes Kentucky so good.

"I thought we played pretty good defense on him, but the beauty of the Kentucky team is they play to their strengths," Buckley said. "With as many talented players as they have, there will be different strengths every night. He played within the flow of the game. He didn't force the action and I think that's his personality. There were so many other people that played well. I don't feel like he had to pick his game up that much more on the offensive end."

Azubuike's play didn't give him many reasons to smile Tuesday, but he said that hopefully will change.

"I am trying to stay focused, make sure I concentrate and do all I can to win," he said. "There will be time to smile later. Tonight was not the time to be smiling."

Numbers: Patrick Sparks' 20 points marked his 45th double-figure scoring game in college. ... Chuck Hayes had his 15th career double-double and second straight. He also reached double figures in rebounding for the fourth straight game. ... Ball State shot 36.1 percent from the field and became the 34th straight opponent to fail to hit 50 percent against UK. ... Junior Ravi Moss hit his only 3-point shot to extend his streak dating back to last season to eight straight 3-pointers made.

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