Date story published: Thursday, January 3, 2002
LOUISVILLE -- No post-Pitino hangover for Kentucky.
Actually, the party became even more fun as UK boogied to a 101-67 victory over outmanned Tulane last night.
The Cats were superior to Rick Pitino-coached Louisville team in last weekend's emotional showdown, too. But the tension of the highly anticipated showdown worked against a free-flowing game.
Rather than hit a lull against Tulane, Kentucky looked sharper and more bouncy without the burden of vanquishing Pitino, the former UK coach whose career path wedded him with the Cats' archrival.
UK (9-2) never trailed against Tulane and reached the 100-point mark for only the fifth time in Tubby Smith's five seasons as coach.
With Keith Bogans and Gerald Fitch breaking out of shooting funks, Kentucky hit 16 three-pointers. That eclipsed the previous high of 14 (at Vanderbilt on Jan. 9, 1999 and against Tennessee on Feb. 14, 2001) for the Smith era. The Cats hit 11 threes (in 20 attempts) in the second half, which was more than a UK team had in all but 11 of the previous 153 games of the Smith era.
"We had a lot of fun," said Bogans, who turned the attention away from the torrid shooting, "especially on defense. Gerald set the tone by getting on the floor for the first loose ball."
Of course, hustle is Fitch's signature style. The bonus was how he snapped out of a shooting slump (one for 11 from three-point range in the previous five games). He made two of four from beyond the arc en route to a season-high 16 points.
Fitch credited how he's spent about 30 minutes after recent practices putting up shots.
"I've built my confidence back up," he said. "It got pretty low. At times I didn't want to take the shot."
Bogans, who had made only four of 19 three-point shots in the previous five games, missed his first five shots (three from three-point range). Then he made six of seven (three of three from beyond the arc).
"I was just off," he said of the misses. "Nothing mechanical."
Bogans, who finished with 16 points, credited the setting.
"I love playing in this gym," said Bogans, whose career shooting in Freedom Hall is 20-for-42 (9-for-16 from three-point range). "I wish we could play more games in this gym. But this is Cardinal country."
Kentucky toyed with Tulane. The Cats scored the game's first five points, and expanded the lead to 15 barely seven minutes into the festivities.
Tulane closed within 35-27, prompting Smith to send in four substitutes at the 3:27 mark. As if on cue, the Cats scored the next eight points en route to a 12-3 finishing kick. That gave UK a 47-30 halftime lead.
Tayshaun Prince scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. Notably, he led all scorers despite taking only three three-point shots. That reflected UK's dominance inside. So did a 44-32 rebounding advantage.
Prince collaborated with Bogans for the game's first basket. Bogans threw a lob that Prince softly laid in 11 seconds into the first half. It was a lead that UK never relinquished.
The first TV timeout seemed to reflect Kentucky's confidence in an inevitable victory. The Cats made multiple substitutions despite the first unit playing well enough to establish an 11-2 lead.
The advantage grew to 19-4 on freshman Chuck Hayes' three-pointer at the 12:42 mark.
The Cats still led 27-13 when Tulane made a run. The Green Wave went on a 14-8 spurt to reduce Kentucky's lead to 35-27.
Kentucky countered by inserting Hayes, Fitch, Erik Daniels and Adam Chiles into the lineup with Prince at the 3:27 mark.
Prince curled into the lane and hit a 15-footer to stop the bleeding and a 12-3 Cats' run to end the half. Prince had two other baskets in the final minutes. The second brought cheers from the crowd. He began a drive on the right side, pulled back and hit a 12-foot flip from the baseline.
Prince and Bogans continued to shoot well early in the second half. Bogans hit a three-pointer with 18:57 left, his fourth straight successful shot, and UK's lead grew to 50-32.
The lead reached a new high-- 55-32 with 17:37 left -- when Prince hit a three-pointer. That marked the seventh straight shot for Prince to go in.
The streak reached eight when Prince took a lob from Cliff Hawkins and dunked it home.
The hot shooting fueled a 13-0 Kentucky run that expanded the lead to 60-32. The run eventually became 22-3, which built the lead to its zenith: 69-35 with 13:22 left.
Despite all the fun at the offensive end, UK remained diligent at the defensive end. Tulane shot worse in the second half (39.4 percent) than in the first (44.4). The same was true from three-point range: 37.5 percent in the first, 25 percent in the second.
"Our defensive intensity stayed up," Smith said. "We didn't lose anything there from the big win against Louisville. That's good to see."