Date story published: Sunday, March 17, 2002
ST. LOUIS -- Call it Kentucky basketball's ultimate left-handed compliment.
Last night Tayshaun Prince all but re-enacted Jack Givens' memorable title-game performance of 24 years ago. His career-high 41 points -- pardon the expression -- goosed Kentucky to an 87-82 victory over gritty Tulsa in this year's NCAA Tournament second round.
Same uniform number (21). Same point total. Same feathery left-handed touch. Same city.
"Oh yeah?," said Prince, arching an eyebrow when told where Givens beat Duke in 1978. "I didn't know it was in St. Louis. What a coincidence. I guess it's a small world."
Prince, who amassed the seventh-highest point total by a Kentucky player (and matched Givens' school record for a left-handed player), took over the game. Against smaller Tulsa, he went inside early to make sure he got off to a good start.
"When you shoot 0-for-six from outside (against Valparaiso in the first round), you have to take it inside," said Prince, who quickly added three-pointers and mid-range jumpers to his arsenal. "Once I felt the outside shot going, I knew I was pretty much comfortable with my game. I could go inside and outside."
Prince took only 21 shots and made 14, an efficiency that startled both sides.
"That's incredible," Tulsa Coach John Phillips said. "We do it a little differently. We do it by committee and they did it with one player. We put every guy we had on Prince, and it just didn't work out."
Tulsa (27-7) did not submit to Prince's will. The Golden Hurricane used a balanced attack and extraordinary quickness to stay with Kentucky.
But Prince would not let Kentucky lose.
After Tulsa scored 11 straight points late in the first half to go ahead 42-40, Prince answered with a three-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer.
"That was a big, big basket," he said. "That gave us some momentum to build on and took it from them."
Prince, who scored 28 of UK's final 46 points, made sure Tulsa never led again. With UK ahead 51-47 early in the second half, Prince scored 21 of his team's next 30 points. He hit three three-pointers, three leaners in the lane, a layup, a post-up and two free throws in less than 12 minutes.
"They knew I had it going on," Prince said of his teammates. "They had to get it to me as much as they could."
Tulsa, which kept it a one-possession game as late as the final 10 seconds, admitted it had no answer for Prince: an X-factor as a 6-foot-9 swingman.
"It got pretty frustrating," said Greg Harrington, Tulsa's all-conference guard. "It got to the point where I was just shaking my head. There wasn't a whole lot we could do. He hit a lot of long threes (six of eight). When we got on him, he hit mid-range jumpers. We tried a lot of things on him, but nothing worked. He just played great."
UK strayed from Prince only briefly. Despite being guarded by 5-10 Dante Swanson, Prince did not see the ball for four straight possessions midway through the second half. Conveniently, a television timeout with 7:35 left allowed UK Coach Tubby Smith to remind his players to look for Prince.
Prince scored UK's next nine points.
"I can't explain (Prince's performance)," said Keith Bogans, UK's only other double-digit scorer (19). "I was just trying to get him the ball. I wasn't trying to look to shoot no more. He was knocking everything down. So get him the ball."
Fittingly, Prince, who scored the highest number of points by a UK player since Melvin Turpin scored 42 against Georgia in the 1984 Southeastern Conference Tournament, iced the victory. He made four free throws in the final 25 seconds.
"He's a tremendous player," Phillips said. "It was a big stage. He stepped up and played great. He's always been considered an All-American player and there's a reason for that. He showed it today."