- Wednesday, November 22 2006 -
Maui Classic Invitational (at Lahaina, HI)
Kentucky - 63 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 22nd by ESPN/USA Today]
Memphis - 80 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 12th by AP and 11th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Memphis 43, Kentucky 40
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|UCLA 68 - 73|||||Coll. of Charleston 77 - 61|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Aloha! Cats leave Maui feeling blue
LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was quick to point out before his team hit the road for the EA Sports Maui Invitational that every time he brought a team to the island the season went pretty swimmingly.
After two losses and a gutted defense Smith will likely spend the flight home wondering if history will repeat itself this season.
Playing just 16 hours after a bruising loss to UCLA in the semifinals, the Cats were thrashed by an explosive Memphis squad 80-63 in the third place game at the Lahaina Civic Center. The defeat followed a suddenly clear blueprint as the Tigers dominated UK in the paint and drove the lane on the Cats at will.
"We had a tough task coming out here playing five games in eight days and two top teams," Smith said. "We knew it'd be tough. It looked like we hit the wall in the second half and they really spread us with their quickness. I'm not making excuses but that's what I saw."
Where UK goes from here will indicate what its ceiling is this season. The Cats' flaws were all exposed inside the tiny gym at the base of one of Maui's lush mountains. While the defense was atrocious, the Cats clearly lack any inside scoring option to help ease the defensive pressure Randolph Morris is drawing in the post.
UK had its moments against the No. 12-ranked Tigers, staying close throughout an up-and-down first half that featured as many carries and travels as it did crisp offensive sets. The Cats got to the free throw line 17 times and forced a clearly impatient Memphis squad into numerous turnovers, but the Tigers' Jeremy Hunt hit three triples and a late 7-0 run allowed them to hold on to a 43-40 lead.
Of course, the trouble signs were there even as the Cats kept the game competitive. Memphis outrebounded UK 23-12 in the half, including 10 offensive boards, and held a 20-10 edge in points in the paint and cashed in 11 second chance points to just two for the Cats.
"They spread you out and really take you off the dribble and when one guy gets beat the defense breaks down," Smith said.
All of those issues surfaced in the second half, as Memphis ripped off a 30-8 run after the Cats scored the first basket after the break. During the stretch Memphis three wide open three-pointers and 10 lay-ins and assorted drives to the basket. It was an absolute clinic in gutting a defense.
"This offense is different because it spreads you out so wide and people aren't used to playing it," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "(Smith) had an hour to prepare. If he had three days he would have been able to defend it. It's who can you beat off the dribble? We picked a guy and tried to beat them off the dribble."
The plan worked to perfection not only for Memphis but for DePaul and UCLA as well. When the Cats look at the statistics on their way back to the lower 48 states they will see they were outscored 146-80 in the paint, allowed 52 points off turnovers and 40 second chance points. None of those stats will allow you to win many games against good competition.
UK also struggled to find any consistency at the point, where Ramel Bradley struggled mightily in the Cats' two losses. Although Derrick Jasper is just a freshman he seemed much more comfortable in the role despite not knowing the Cats' entire offense.
"I wasn't very excited," Smith said when asked about the point guards. "Derrick did some good things. I'm not too happy right now. Ramel's situation, he wants to try to do too much and force the action."
Not everything was negative for the Cats. Randolph Morris played three strong games, leading the Cats with 18 points and eight rebounds against the Tigers, and Joe Crawford found his scoring touch, adding 15 points. Smith also found out his team has more fortitude than a year ago.
"We have no quitters," Smith said. "We are much different in that regard."
The Cats will need every bit of that newfound toughness after this trip.
Bobby Perry shoots
Joe Crawford drives