Date story published: Sunday, February 4, 2001
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- According to the name stitched across the blue jerseys, Kentucky was the team that beat South Carolina 94-61 yesterday.
But this wasn't the same Kentucky that has slogged through this season in fits and starts. Those Cats beat back or succumbed to determined opponents while handicapped by their own ill-timed lapses in judgment and inconsistent shooting.
This was special K.
"It seemed like for 10 minutes we were playing the Harlem Globetrotters out there," South Carolina senior David Ross said.
Kentucky went 13 minutes and 47 seconds without missing a shot. In that span, the Cats made 15 straight.
After making only nine of its first 21 shots, Kentucky made 31 of 41. In one stretch, the Cats made 27 of 31 shots. During this time, UK went to basketball's version of light speed in outscoring South Carolina 35-6. A 40-39 lead exploded to 75-45.
"It was weird," said freshman walk-on Matt Heissenbuttel, who rode the tidal wave and made his first career three-pointer. "It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it. We didn't even have to go to the offensive board."
But Kentucky did go to the front of the class in the Southeastern Conference. Georgia's loss to Florida yesterday allowed the Cats (13-7, 6-2) to claim sole possession of first place at the halfway point of the SEC race.
Unlike so many games earlier this season, Kentucky did not relax once it took control. The Cats got better and better en route to a 56-point second half, the most scored against an Eddie Fogler-coached team at South Carolina but the second straight 56-point second half for Kentucky.
UK got pretty, not sloppy. Freshman Erik Daniels drove the lane and finger-rolled a shot like George Gervin. Marvin Stone, picking up the slack for a gimpy Marquis Estill, took a pass on the right side of the basket, glided underneath and softly banked in a left-handed shot.
"You try anything at that point," Stone said. "Our team was making so many shots, you get confident you can make any shot."
Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans came close to making every shot from beyond the arc. Prince made five of five three-point shots on the way to a career-high 29 points. Bogans hit five of seven three-point shots and added 21 points.
"The way I shot the ball was fantastic," said Prince, who took more pride in the treys than his three dunks. "Because my three-pointers have not been going in for me all year," he said.
Prince had made only 26.7 percent of his threes this season. Then again, nothing much held to form. Bogans had made only 10 three-point shots in UK's seven earlier Southeastern Conference games.
And lost in all the shooting was South Carolina's pre-game billing as the SEC's best defensive team. The Gamecocks had held its previous seven SEC opponents to an average of 19 points below their scoring averages, and the last four to no better than 41.4-percent shooting.
"The second half was like we weren't even there," South Carolina guard Aaron Lucas said. "We lost focus. We lost enthusiasm. We lost emotion. We lost the game. It was just a total loss throughout the second half."
Prince and Bogans scored 32 of their 50 points in the second half. Each had only one basket in the game's first 15 minutes. In that time, South Carolina, which scored the game's first eight points, established a 27-25 lead.
"We knew they were going to come out pumped up," Bogans said. "They had their little streak going. We just stayed focused. Then in the second half, we couldn't miss."
UK made its final seven shots of the first half: the first two by Jason Parker, the last five by either Prince and Bogans.
Intermission did not cool off the Cats. UK made its first eight shots of the second half (four by Bogans, three by Prince and one by Saul Smith). That made for 15 straight successful shots, six being three-pointers.
"It seemed like we shot it, it went in," Stone said. "We kept shooting it, it kept going in. It felt good. Real good."
UK's 13 three-pointers matched a two-season high. The Cats also made 13 shots from beyond the arc against UCLA in November.
"The best shooting exhibition we've had in a long time," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "I hope we can save some of those shots and some of those threes for the future."
To explain such shooting, Kentucky saw something more tangible than, say, a harmonic hoop convergence. "We're starting to get a lot of confidence and trust in each other," Tubby Smith said. "That if we make the extra pass, we'll get a better shot."
Heissenbuttel saw a payback in the attention UK had paid in improving its shooting. The Cats came into the game ranked last in three-point accuracy in SEC games (27.2 percent) and 11th in three-point baskets (5.3 per game).
"It just broke out today," he said.