Date story published: Thursday, December 11, 1997
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Kentucky-Canisius turned out to be as predictable as mid-December weather in Buffalo.
Snow fell and winds blew cold off Lake Erie here yesterday. Forecasts called for as much as 10 inches of snow in the area by sunrise today.
Meanwhile, No. 4 UK buried outmanned Canisius 81-54 in Marine Midland Arena last night.
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For a second straight game, senior guard Jeff Sheppard matched his career high of 21 points. He reached that total on an acrobatic hanging 10-foot bank shot with 5:22 left.
But an earlier shot sent an even stronger signal that Sheppard's supposed rustiness is gone. He rose in the lane looking to pass, then shifted in midair before swishing a 12-footer.
"It looked like he looked away and shot," UK Coach Tubby Smith said. "Like he looked at the bench.... Jeff's been improving every game. He's starting to feel comfortable. His competitive juices are starting to flow. You can see he's involved. He's talking more. He was hesitant because he was rusty."
Sheppard, who sat out last season as a redshirt, made only 31.1 percent of his shots in UK's first five games. The 21 against both Indiana and Canisius represented his largest point total in two straight games as a Cat.
Yet Sheppard scoffed at the suggestion that he's playing better. "I felt the same way the last couple games as I did in the other games," he said. "I'm shooting open shots. Some just didn't fall (earlier)."
But Sheppard, who would rather sit out in the Buffalo cold than talk about himself to reporters, embraced the notion that he's shedding the rust built up when he sat out last season. "I hope so," he said. "For the hope that that question will stop. The rustiness is over."
Sheppard's scoring balanced Kentucky's overwhelming superiority inside. The Cats, now 7-1 and finally headed home for their second game in Rupp Arena (Saturday against No. 24 Georgia Tech), dominated a Canisius team that started three guards and a 6-foot-5 power forward.
Canisius suffered its most lopsided home loss since No. 1 Duke won here by 36 in 1991. The Golden Griffins fell to 4-2.
"Rebounding really killed us," Canisius Coach Mike MacDonald said of UK's 43-25 edge on the boards. "Some of it was poor box-outs (by the Golden Griffins). Some was recruiting. They have bigger guys."
Kentucky was simply too big, too fast, too good in showing little letdown against a no-name, but high-paying ($200,000 guarantee) opponent.
Two-thirds of UK's 39 first-half points came on shots from the lane. Canisius got 11 first-half points from the same area.
The difference accounted for Kentucky's 39-25 halftime lead.
During the first half, the Cats had almost as many offensive rebounds (13) as Canisius had rebounds (14). Twelve of UK's first 29 points came off second-chance opportunities. Canisius had only four offensive rebounds and two points off a second-chance opportunity.
Jamaal Magloire, who grew up an 80-mile drive away in Toronto, demonstrated UK's superiority at the start. He blocked three shots in the first five minutes. He finished with four blocks, two shy of his career-high. All came when he left his man to help a beaten teammate.
The game's first shot showed Kentucky's superiority inside. Keith Lambkin beat Allen Edwards on a backdoor cut. But Magloire blocked the layup attempt.
"Is it frustrating? Yeah," the Canisius coach said in answering his own question. "Especially on the first play of the game, and we get what we wanted."
What frustrated Canisius energized Kentucky.
"It can be demoralizing (for the opponent) and it gets us pumped up," Smith said of the block. "Especially the guy who gets 'backdoored.' "
"I thought they were in a delay," Edwards said. "I thought they were in some Tennessee stuff."
Canisius scored the game's first basket. UK did not trail again. Edwards' dunk off a lob pass at the 8:25 mark gave the Cats their first double-digit lead.
UK led by as many as 14 on three occasions late in the first half.
Sheppard quickly dashed any chance of a miracle second-half comeback. He scored UK's first eight points of the half, including his third and fourth three-pointers (one short of a career high).
"Sheppard's four three-pointers were big," said MacDonald, who hoped UK couldn't shoot holes in Canisius' matchup zone. "We figured we'd gang rebound and guard the middle and hope the wind from the blizzard outside would blow the ball from the rim."