Cats focus on Tech

November 30, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Kentucky basketball players enjoy the marquee games like the one Saturday against No. 9 North Carolina that will be the Wildcats' national television debut this season.

But the Cats insist that doesn't mean they are looking past tonight's game against Tennessee Tech in Rupp Arena.

"We need to make sure we are focused on them and stop them from playing well," said Kentucky junior Kelenna Azubuike. "We have talked about North Carolina sometimes, watched some of their games. But I don't think that will be much of a problem. Our guys realize we can't overlook any game."

Tennessee Tech is coached by former UK assistant Mike Sutton. Former UK point guard Saul Smith is now on Sutton's staff, another reason Kentucky coach Tubby Smith says Tech does a lot of the same things his team does.

However, Tubby Smith warned that his team will not have an easy game tonight despite Tech's 1-2 record.


"They are a very talented team. They will take you off the dribble, as most teams are doing right now," the Kentucky coach said. "I know we scored a lot of points against them last year (in a 108-81 win) and Mike Sutton's team likes to get up and down the court, but scoring has been a concern for us. We're just not getting the outside production and the outside shooting we expect.

Smith says Tech is a better outside shooting team at this stage of the season than his team.

"They are a better shooting team than we are," Smith said. "We just are not making enough shots."

Shooting 45.4 percent

Kentucky, ranked eighth, is averaging 75.7 points a game but shooting only 45.4 percent from the field after three relatively easy wins. From 3-point range, UK is hitting only 34.6 percent and guard Patrick Sparks has seven of UK's 18 3-pointers.

Tech opponents are shooting 55 percent from the field this season

Smith said his players understand they are not playing well offensively.

"We're just not putting many points on the board and not shooting for a high percentage," the Kentucky coach said. "We're not playing to our potential. We're not playing to the level we know we're capable of playing. I don't know if it is just the inexperience coming out, but we have to get better production from our veteran players as well."

Smith said the inexperience showed in the win over Georgia State last week when senior Chuck Hayes started out scoring well.

"Then he doesn't even get the ball. We're missing open people and not passing the ball inside like we should," Smith said.

"Some of the stuff that coach Smith has stressed time and time again, we are just having a hard time picking it all up," Hayes said. "We are slipping in some areas that he has stressed. That can't continue."

Jenkins leading Tech

Tennessee Tech (1-2) has lost to Mississippi and Appalachian State and defeated NAIA foe Virginia Intermont. Senior forward Willie Jenkins, a transfer from Massachusetts, was last year's Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the year. Jenkins averaged 19.5 points and 7.2 rebounds last season.

"He's putting some good numbers on the board. He's a guy we have to contain," Smith said.

Sutton has no false illusions going into tonight's game.

"You have to play well and hope for them not to play well," Sutton said. "They are not going to be subpar on defense or subpar on rebounding. Tubby's teams are always great in those areas. They're deep and they're athletic. They really attack the glass well. They play with great intensity and energy. They will create a lot of problems for us."

That's what Smith wants as his team prepares for Saturday's game at North Carolina.

"You play one game at a time. It isn't like we have a veteran team with five seniors," Smith said. "We are still a team learning its identity and trying to mature. It wouldn't matter whether it is North Carolina or Morehead. We want to get better each game."

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