Date story published: Wednesday, December 30, 1998
In basketball lexicon, it is known as a "guarantee game."
One outmanned team, in this case Tennessee State, receives a guaranteed fee for its services as cannon fodder.
The other team, in this case No. 7 Kentucky, is all but guaranteed a victory.
True to form, Kentucky got the victory and then some in its "guarantee game" last night.
The Cats beat Tennessee State 97-47. Maybe more importantly, UK got a breather from its debilitating pre-conference schedule to work on correcting the problems that led to the school's first two-game losing streak since 1994.
"We needed a game of this magnitude so we could feel good about ourselves and get back on track," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "After getting up for so many games, it's good to have a game - not that we take it lightly - but even as a coaching staff we can be a little less intense."
Avoiding the school's first three-game losing streak since Rick Pitino's first season as coach (1989-90), Kentucky improved its record to 11-3. Forward Scott Padgett noted how UK won rather than simply getting a victory as significant.
"The big thing was coming out and playing well no matter who we played," Padgett said. "Coming out and getting by with a victory would not have been good for us."
UK got an emotional boost when new starters Ryan Hogan and Jamaal Magloire played well in place of two regulars recovering from stomach flu, Tayshaun Prince and Heshimu Evans.
Hogan, who made his first career start, shook off early shooting problems and provided the kind of hustle and attention to defensive detail that Smith ordered after last week's losses to Duke and Louisville.
Magloire, starting for the first time this season, led UK by equaling his season-high of 15 points. He also grabbed a season-high eight rebounds.
"I'm ecstatic," said Hogan, the nephew of former UK All-American Kevin Grevey. "Making my first start here at Kentucky is like a dream come true."
"Now that he's shooting better, he will get more playing time and may start," Smith said. "He has something to bring to the program."
UK, which is on course to its worst long-range shooting accuracy in the history of the three-point shot, struggled from beyond the line early. Hogan missed all four of his three-point shots in the first half.
"I was rushing my shot a little bit," he said. "I was trying to do a little too much. As soon as I settled down and did some other things defensively and just let it come to me, I thought I played a good floor game."
Hogan's defense led to two five-second violations. He also forced a double-dribble violation and took a charge.
"I've been working on my defense," Hogan said. "If I'm a one-dimensional player, I'll get less playing time. I just try to outwork my man. I might not be quick, but I'll make it up by how hard I want to stop him."
Asked if the level of competition made Hogan appear to be a defensive stopper, Smith said, "He's improved his defense that much. He's been working hard. He's very capable of playing very solid defense."
Hogan made two of three three-point shots in the second half.
"It's great for me to see him take the pressure off," Padgett you know? It puts pressure that you have to make every shot."
Magloire looked smoother offensively.
"He can post up against everybody because he's big enough and strong enough," Smith said of Magloire. "He has to learn to pause once he catches the ball and gather himself (before making his move)."
Magloire attributed his performance to simply getting an opportunity.
"Because I was playing in the game for a longer period of time, I became more confident," he said.
Kentucky broke the game open with a 15-0 run midway through the first half.
Prince helped spur the breakout. After Wayne Turner stripped the ball from Tennessee State in the low post, he fed Prince for a resounding left-handed fast-break dunk.
Prince hit a three-pointer on UK's next possession. When the run ended, a 17-13 lead ballooned to 32-13.
Hogan found his perimeter shooting eye in the second half. He hit two treys to fuel a 24-4 run that expanded Kentucky's lead to 67-29. But long before then, a UK victory was guaranteed.