- Wednesday, December 8 2004 -
Morehead - 40 (Head Coach: Kyle Macy) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 71 (Head Coach: Orlando Smith) - [Ranked 10th by AP and 11th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 29, Morehead State 23
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|North Carolina 78 - 91|||||Indiana 73 - 58|
Game Writeup - Written by and courtesy of Matt May; Kentucky Sports Report, (All Rights Reserved)
UK runs hot, cold in win over Morehead
Tubby Smith was looking for something that would convince him his Kentucky team learned a lesson or two from its first loss of the season against North Carolina. Instead, Smith watched a wholly uninspiring effort in the Cats' 71-40 victory over Morehead State in Rupp Arena.
Coming off a game where the Cats (5-1) laid an egg under the pressure of a Final Four-caliber opponent, there was a disappointing lack of focus, energy and effort in the first half against a mediocre Eagles squad. Although Smith termed the practices after the Carolina loss "intense", the feel on the floor was much different on this night.
"It's been like that since I've been here," senior Chuck Hayes said. "Whenever there is big game that we lose, the game after thatÉI wouldn't say it's sloppy, but it hurts you."
Smith said he was surprised at how his team looked mostly flat in the first half.
"I thought we got (the Carolina loss) behind us Monday," Smith said. "Boy, if we had played Monday somebody would have been in trouble. But we didn't play Monday."
Leading just 29-23 at the half and looking disinterested at best, the Cats were showing all the makings of a North Carolina hangover. But UK burst out of the gates in the second half, looking much better in terms of flow and energy, but still struggling to find the intensity Smith typically desires.
Even through the spotty play, UK began the second half with stifling defense and a more aggressive offensive approach. The renewed effort showed as the Cats scored the first 20 points of the second half, turning the surprisingly close halftime score into a 49-23 rout. During the stretch, Kelenna Azubuike scored nine points, Patrick Sparks eight and Randolph Morris three. Twice Morris went up for dunks instead of going soft, as he had much of the season to date.
"It was a tale of two halves," Azubuike said. "The first half was ugly. We didn't come out and play as hard as we could. The second half we decided to play like we could and go hard.
"(Coach Smith) was mad. He got into us pretty good (at halftime) and rightfully so."
When the dust settled on former UK All-American Kyle Macy's team, Morehead had made just three second half field goals (3-of-18) and turned the ball over 12 times as the UK starters exited with 2:52 remaining. By that point the lead had ballooned to 69-34, but there wasn't much in the way of congratulations as the group came to the bench.
The blitz once again raised the question about UK falling into a pattern of turning the light switch on and off, a dangerous practice as the competition begins to stiffen.
"We better not do that or one time when the switch is off it'll stay off and we'll get our butts kicked," Azubuike said.
There were positives for the Cats though, mostly coming in the second half. Azubuike finished with 21 points and appeared to continue his aggressive play. Chuck Hayes collected his fourth double double of the year with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sparks tallied 10 points and six assists without turning the basketball over, four of those assists coming on four consecutive UK baskets late in the second half.
As for the areas Smith had earmarked for improvement from the Carolina game, the Cats still struggled in the rebounding department despite having a 47-36 edge on the glass. Too often the Cats were forced to try and tip rebounds because of poor box outs on the block.
Although the night surely wasn't what Smith would have hoped for, it's obvious the Cats are still learning their lessons.
MACY EVALUATES UK
Macy didn't waste any time in the post game interview session giving his impressions of the Cats, and it was from more of a alumni view than an opposing coach's standpoint.
"They are very talented and I don't think that's a news flash," Macy said. "But to be a championship team, No. 1, they have to continue to get better and better and they've got to listen to Coach Smith. He knows what he's doing.
"Those young guys got a lot of publicity, but they've got to play for Kentucky's team and not the highlight reel."
Macy pointed to his overmatched team being within six points at the half as a perfect example.
"We were way outmanned by this team and were within four or six at the half," Macy said. "(Tubby) shouldn't have to chew them out at halftime. They have to play for Kentucky and not themselves.
"But that's just my own impressions, for whatever they are worth. They've got the potential though."
ALLEYNE ... AGAIN
The amazing development of 7-foot-3 big man Shagari Alleyne continues to move forward at a staggering pace for UK, as the sophomore center had his best game yet against the Eagles.
Alleyne finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots in 17 minutes of action. The lanky Alleyne hit three of his four shots from the field and made 5-of-7 free throws despite badly air-balling one attempt.
"He played great," Smith said. "I was very impressed. He's really coming on and he's more and more confident as he plays."
Shagari Alleyne with a dunk
Ravi Moss shoots a jumper