Cats finally find offense in 2nd half

December 01, 2004|HAL MORRIS

LEXINGTON - Whether they'll admit it or not, Kentucky may have been looking ahead to Saturday's game with North Carolina in the first half last night against Tennessee Tech.

The Wildcats led just 40-33 at the half - shooting 41.4 percent - while allowing the Golden Eagles to make 52.4 percent of their shots.

The second half was a different story.

Again led by Kelenna Azubuike, Kentucky went on a 13-0 run to lead 57-38 and put the game out of reach in a 92-63 win in a tune-up before the No. 8 ranked Wildcats head to Chapel Hill to take on the ninth-ranked Tar Heels.

That first half effort won't cut it Saturday, but UK coach Tubby Smith was pleased with the adjustments over the second 20 minutes of play.


"Making the extra pass, and defensively we didn't give up the easy baskets. We gave up a lot of layups, I think they had nine in the first half," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said of the keys during the early run. "So, we made a conscious effort to stay between the ball and the basket and that was a big change."

Azubuike, who made six straight shots during a 19-3 second-half run Friday against Georgia State, scored nine of his game-high 21 points during Tuesday's blitz. He finished the night 7-for-12 from the floor and hit on three of six 3-point attempts.

"I think the second half especially was a good half for us. We got out and executed, communicated better on defense and switched when we needed to switch," Azubuike said. "And just did what we needed to do, more than in the first half. And hopefully that will carry over to North Carolina."

"He looked very relaxed. He played with focus. Twenty-two minutes and 21 points, that's impressive," Smith said. "We were happy to see him play well. He's one of the guys we have to have play well."

Several players contributed

But Kentucky got contributions from several players during its key run.

Azubuike, who was two points off his career high Tuesday, started things off with a putback and free throw. Randolph Morris then nailed a jumper in the post, Patrick Sparks had a steal and outlet to Rajon Rondo for a layup, Azubuike drilled a 3-pointer off an assist from Sparks and Sparks hit one from long range off a pass from Azubuike to make it a 19-point cushion.

Rondo also had two offensive boards and finished with nine points and three assists. Sparks went 3-for-6 from 3-point range with 11 points and Morris added 10 points. Then there was Chuck Hayes, who had his usual workmanlike 17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals in 18 minutes.

The Kentucky defense also forced three turnovers and Tech missed all four of its shots during the surge. For the game, the Golden Eagles were 21 of 51 for 41.2 percent, the 36th straight game Kentucky's opponent failed to shoot 50 percent.

"In the first half we played a little lackadaisical. Coach got on us at halftime and we made some adjustments," said Josh Carrier, who 2-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with six points. "We just took some pride and got out there played hard."

Smith said it was good to see his team finally hit some from long range shots.

"I was happy that we were able to pick up our 3-point shooting in this game. That is something that has eluded us in the previous three games," he said.

"I thought we went deep on the bench tonight and everyone was pretty productive coming into the game. Guys got quality minutes so I'm sure everybody is upbeat as we prepare for a very good, very talented, very experienced North Carolina team."

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