- Saturday, January 31 2004 -
Kentucky - 60 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 5th by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
Vanderbilt - 66 (Head Coach: Kevin Stallings) - [Unranked]
|Scott Hundley (*)||23||0||5||0||1||4||4||2||3||5||2||1||1||0||2||4|
Halftime Score: Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 35
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi 71 - 61|||||Florida 68 - 65|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats collapse, lose to Vanderbilt 66-60
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has said his team has been "skating on the edge" for much of the season. The Cats finally fell in against Vanderbilt, losing a 10-point second half lead in a 66-60 defeat at Memorial Gym.
Despite erasing an 11-point first half deficit and beginning the second half on an 18-3 run to claim a 53-43 lead with 13:03 left, the Cats (14-3, 4-2 SEC) fell apart under poor shooting and critical turnovers in the final minutes. UK scored just seven points over the final 13:03, making 4-of-21 over that span and losing three of its nine turnovers in the game during the final three minutes.
"All we have to do is take care of the ball," Smith said. "On the road, we've been able to stay focused and perform and execute in critical situations. We had a lot of fundamental breakdowns. We only had nine turnovers, but all of them were crucial."
As Vanderbilt (14-4, 3-4) drew closer while the clocked ticked away, UK senior point guard Cliff Hawkins made three uncharacteristic turnovers in the final 2:30. Kentucky native Scott Hundley stole a Hawkins' entry pass, then the senior drove into traffic and lost the ball with just over a minute left. Hawkins' final miscue was having a pass batted up in the air and then stolen by Russell Lakey with 18 seconds remaining.
The final steal by Lakey led to a foul, but Lakey missed the front end of a one-and-one. But like so many games before, UK was unable to get a solid box out and Matt Freije back-tipped the rebound to Hundley, who was fouled and sealed the game by making two free throws.
"I turned the ball over," Hawkins said matter-of-factly. "(Lakey) just made an awesome play on the ball. I made a lackadaisical pass and he batted the ball in the air.
"(Coach Smith) is upset. We're upset. I'm upset at myself, but there is nothing you can do about it now."
The Commodores capped their comeback when little-used freshman Dan Cage swished a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 61-60 in Vandy's favor. Playing because Corey Smith was suspended for fighting the previous game, Cage hit his three over Chuck Hayes, who appeared as if he would block the shot when it left Cage's hand.
It shouldn't have been surprising that Vanderbilt ended the game on a 14-2 run given the twists and turns of the game. UK took a 7-2 lead as the Commodores turned the ball over the first three times they had it. But Vandy then ran off a 16-0 spurt by hitting its first eight shots, including six consecutive three-pointers, three by 7-foot-2 Dawid Przybyszewski.
But UK responded with a 19-5 spurt of its own to reclaim the lead at 27-25 as Vanderbilt made just 4-of-16 from the field the rest of the half. Although the ‘Dores held a 40-35 halftime lead, UK seemed the have the momentum and the fresh memories of last season's second half pasting in Memorial.
It looked like UK was on its way to running an encore of last year's second half, ripping off an 18-3 run to turn a five-point deficit into a 10-point lead. Hounding Vandy's shooters, the Commodores had made just 5-of-23 shots since their hot start.
The tide turned one final time when Hawkins, Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes all went to the bench with three fouls. While those three sat, the Cats started missing everything they put up, both from long range and in the paint. The Cats finished the game shooting just 37.3 percent, including a 3-of-19 clip from deep.
"If you don't make shots, you're not going to win," Smith said. "When you shoot 37 percent, you are not going to won. Twenty-six to nine in free throws, I don't care what league you're in, you're not going to win."
And while UK has been able to escape games against Mississippi State, Tennessee and others by making a clutch play in the final minute, turnovers were all they could muster in a rowdy Memorial Gym.
"Those critical moments, it should have never come to that," Smith said. "That's been one of our problems, being able to sustain our offensive play."
This time around, UK was unable to tightrope the ledge.
Cliff Hawkins and Russell Lakey fight for a loose ball
Matt Freije grabs a rebound in front of Lukasz Obrzut