Smith hopes loss shows weaknesses to Cats

December 07, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Before North Carolina beat his team Saturday, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith already knew that transition defense and rebounding were problem areas for the Wildcats.

Now the players should know, too, after losing 91-78 at North Carolina.

"You always learn from every game. It's just that usually a loss brings out, and will expose, a lot of weaknesses," said Smith. "North Carolina did a lot of that. We've struggled all year with transition defense and rebounding. Those were two areas where we were annihilated and dominated.

"You can preach and drill all you want, but they (players) have to live it and go through it and unfortunately that is what happened on Saturday."

Going into Wednesday's home game with Morehead, Kentucky is outrebounding opponents 37-36. However, considering the size advantage UK had on its first four foes, Smith knew rebounding was a problem before North Carolina dominated the boards.


Smith said he wasn't exactly sure why his Wildcats were not rebounding better.

"We will find out in the next few days what it is," Smith said. "I wish I did know. It's a matter of want to and proper technique. Our backcourt is also much smaller and less physical than we have been in the past. That is one issue. We will have to address those things."

Forward Chuck Hayes is averaging 10 rebounds per game, forward Kelenna Azubuike 5.4 and freshman center Randolph Morris 5.0.

Starting guards Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks are combining for only 3.6 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Joe Crawford is playing about 10 minutes less per game than Rondo and Sparks, but he's averaging 3.0 rebounds per game.

Freshmen "okay"

"The freshmen have done okay," Smith said. "They have a lot to learn. We got a real lesson in Chapel Hill. Obviously, we have to be a little more physical and take a little more pride in our defense. We can't give up lay-ups and rebounds the way we did and be competitive."

Smith says Morris has been the inside scoring threat UK needs, but that he "has to get better on defense and on the boards."

The coach says Rondo's quickness has been a plus, but that he is "being physically manhandled out front." Crawford's recent improved shooting has impressed Smith. The coach says UK's other freshman, guard Ramel Bradley, has to learn not to foul as much.

The 10th-ranked Cats will try to rebound from their first defeat when they host Morehead State (4-1) Wednesday.

"(Morehead coach) Kyle Macy is a good friend of mine and a former player here at Kentucky," Smith said. "I know his team is off to a pretty good start and has a chance to be a very good team this year. They are getting some quality play from some pretty good guys."

Smith hopes to see better overall play from his team against Morehead before UK plays Indiana Saturday in Louisville.

He felt his team rushed and took ill-advised shots late in the loss at North Carolina after it had played its way back into the game.

"That is the sign of a team that is not quite poised enough," Smith said. "There were a couple of times when we called plays and just didn't execute. The leadership we needed at that time just wasn't there."

Father-son time: During Monday's Southeastern Conference teleconference, Smith emphasized how much he enjoyed coaching his sons - Saul at Kentucky and G.G. at Georgia.

"It was probably toughest for Saul," Smith said. "I am criticized for everything, not just because your son is playing. That is just something else out there for them to criticize. You won't make it in this business if you cannot take criticism. It can be for something you said, a timeout you didn't call, someone you didn't play or a loss.

"But there is nothing better (than coaching your son). Nothing I have done that has satisfied me more in my coaching career than coaching my sons. Cherish it because it doesn't get any better than that."

Central Kentucky News Articles