Date story published: Saturday, November 28, 1998
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - Seven years ago, Pittsburgh upset Kentucky in an early-season tournament.
"Only this time Kentucky had the Darren Morningstar," said Chuck Finder, a sportswriter with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Morningstar dominated inside as Pittsburgh beat UK 85-67 in the 1991 Pre-Season NIT.
UK sophomore center Mike Bradley did the dominating inside in the Puerto Rico Shootout yesterday. He scored a career-high 16 points, making all of his eight shots. But UK lost 68-56.
"I really didn't think they had anybody to match up with me physically down low," Bradley said. "They were kind of skinny. So it was one quick move and go right over."
Yes, Bradley said, the Kentucky loss took away the personal satisfaction from his performance. "I could have the greatest game in the world," he said. "It doesn't mean anything to me if we lose."
Kentucky's poor outside shooting (2-for-22 from three-point range) allowed Pittsburgh to collapse around Bradley. He had one basket in the final 17:58.
"We scored at will inside, especially Mike," teammate Scott Padgett said. "But we didn't make any open jump shots outside."
'Foul' shooting continues
UK made only four of 12 free throws. That lowered the Cats' accuracy from the line to 53.1 percent (51 of 96) this season.
Maybe more troubling, two players most likely to get fouled continued to struggle. Bradley, who's emerging as a chief inside scorer, missed his only free throw. He's 7-for-19 from the line so far (36.8 percent).
Point guard Wayne Turner made three of six foul shots. He's now nine of 14 from the line (64.3 percent).
"The guys who probably never shot free throws well are still not shooting them well," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "That suggests to me they're not listening."
Even Scott Padgett, a career 81.4 percent free-throw shooter going into this season, struggled. He made only one of four free throws, making him 2-for-9 in Puerto Rico (22.2 percent) and eight of 18 so far this season (44.4 percent).
Point guards struggle
UK had nine assists and 15 turnovers against Pittsburgh. That meant UK has had 17 assists and 35 turnovers in two games.
Point guards Wayne Turner and Saul Smith combined for four assists and nine turnovers against Pittsburgh. In two games here, the UK point guards have six assists and 17 turnovers.
"They're just trying to force things because we're not shooting well from outside," the UK coach said. "Wayne will try to force things and go too deep. You almost have to do it because we're not getting much from the others."
The Puerto Rico Shootout is using an experimental 45-second clock shot. The extra 10 seconds helped Pittsburgh's strategy to slow the tempo and shorten the game.
"Yeah, that makes a difference," Pitt Coach Ralph Willard said. "But (UK) has a lot more time to get it inside, too. So it's a trade-off there."
UK's poor shooting nullified that advantage. "The 45-second clock played to their advantage," Smith said. "You can't use your depth. That's why I don't like the 45-second clock."
With Kentucky shooting bricks from outside, a fan was heard offering obvious advice to Smith. "Hey, Coach," he yelled, "put in a shooter."
Duh. Smith tried every player except walk-on Steve Masiello and freshmen Todd Tackett and J.P. Blevins.
Tackett and Blevins have shot well in practice, the UK coach said. But he considered Pittsburgh's guards too much of a challenge for freshmen this early in the season.
"I thought (the Pitt guards) were too athletic," Smith said. "I didn't think (Tackett and Blevins) were ready for those players."
Now hear this
Unranked Pittsburgh beat No. 13 Xavier Thursday and No. 4 Kentucky yesterday.
"We knew we had a great opportunity coming into this tournament," Pitt center Isaac Hawkins said. "We wanted to do our best to make a statement: That we're for real."
Pitt improved to 6-0, the school's best start since winning its first nine games in 1986-87.
Pitt had not beaten a defending national champion since winning against Villanova in 1986.
You gotta believe
Freshman guard Fred Primus, who once made 12 three-pointers in a high school game, hit three big treys against UK. His first two erased UK's last lead of the game, 21-18. When the Cats closed to within 50-48, he hit another trey.
"One thing Fred believes: If he's outside the locker room, he can make the shot," Pitt Coach Ralph Willard said. "That's his whole philosophy. Sometimes he drives us crazy with it. But that's his confidence."
The 56 points marked Kentucky's worst offensive production since a 74-53 loss to LSU on Feb. 2, 1992. That's a span of 236 games.... Pitt snapped a 17-game UK winning streak that dates to a home loss to Ole Miss last season. UK also had won 16 straight games on neutral sites dating to the loss to Arizona in the 1997 Maui Invitational.
* It wasn't easy, but UK extended its streak of hitting at least one three-pointer to 339 games.