Date story published: Saturday, March 26, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas -- As former Utah Coach Rick Majerus suggested earlier in the week, Kentucky may have lacked the best player on the floor.
But UK had more than enough contributors to beat Utah 62-52 victory in the Austin Region semifinals last night.
Kentucky (28-5) advanced to Sunday's finals against Michigan State, which beat top-seeded Duke 78-68 in last night's first semifinal.
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UK won despite foul trouble that limited starting center Randolph Morris to a season-low five minutes and a combined three-for-10 shooting (one of six from three-point range) from perimeter shooters Kelenna Azubuike and Patrick Sparks.
"Tonight was definitely a team win," said Chuck Hayes, whose 12 points led the team scoring parade that included 10 Cats. "Everybody contributed in some kind of way."
A smart floor game enabled Kentucky to shoot a season-high 61.5 percent (24-for-39). Only four Utah opponents had made at least 50 percent of their shots this season.
Hayes attributed UK's good shooting to "patience."
Utah "kind of caught us off guard with a box-and-one (defense) on Patrick," he said. "It took a lot of patience and high-percentage shots.
"They were over-aggressive on the ball. We didn't let them get us out of our tempo."
UK held Utah to 41.5-percent shooting, the Utes' third-worst accuracy of the season.
"I've never seen a team play 13 guys over 26 games," Utah Coach Ray Giacoletti said of UK. "That's amazing. Kentucky wore us down."
Center Andrew Bogut, that best player on the floor in Majerus' estimation, led Utah with 20 points and 12 rebounds. But even with Morris on the bench, Bogut had to work for those points, taking 19 shots and making eight against backup big men Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne.
Kentucky led 29-24 at halftime and probably wondered why. Morris picked up two fouls within four seconds and went to the bench at the 18:34 mark. Hayes followed him after picking up his second foul at the 12:19 mark.
Morris picked up his first foul against Bogut for a reach as Utah's center took an entry pass at 18:34. Four seconds later, Justin Hawkins hung in the lane as he drew another Morris foul.
UK drew 12 fouls in the half with Hayes going to the bench after a charge and bodying Bogut on help defense.
Defense gave Kentucky the initiative. Utah made only five of its first 18 shots. Bogut, who had three shots blocked by Alleyne, made only two of his first 10.
Kentucky took its largest lead at 21-11 on Rajon Rondo's drive with 7:14 left.
Utah drew close down the stretch of a contentious half which saw double technicals on Bogut and UK freshman Ramel Bradley and later a referee have to lecture Sparks and Marc Jackson.
Jackson, who drew boos from UK fans in Nashville in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, again showed no fear nor deference to Kentucky. He completed a feisty first half by hitting a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to set the halftime score.
Forty-three seconds into the second half, Morris picked up his third foul (defending an entry pass to Bogut) and went back to the bench.
Obrzut re-entered the game and twice forced Bogut to walk on post moves.
A pretty fast-break basket and a three-pointer re-established a 10-point lead for Kentucky. A lob from Sparks to Rondo started the break, then Rondo underhanded a pass to Azubuike for a layup. A three-pointer by Sparks, his first of the game, put UK ahead 36-26 with 17:53 left. Sparks also became the ninth UK player to score in the game.
Led by Bogut, Utah closed within three, 40-37. Back-to-back three-pointers by freshman Joe Crawford (his first of the NCAA Tournament) and Ravi Moss put the Cats ahead 46-37 with 9:10 left.
Morris became the 10th UK player to score when he hit a turnaround post shot over Bogut with 6:31 left.
With UK ahead 51-43, Hayes pointed the way to victory. He faked left, then went right in a post-up move against Bogut. He scored while drawing a foul on Bogut. The three-point play put the Cats ahead 54-43 with 4:57 left.
"It felt good knowing I was able to finish and get fouled," Hayes said. "I think fatigue was a factor for him. That play gave us some momentum and kind of sealed the game a little bit."