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CATS GIVE JAYHAWKS TASTE OF NCAA TOURNEY 63-45

Date story published: Wednesday, December 2, 1998

CHICAGO - One press row wag put it best. Kentucky made Kansas play like it was the "Big Dance" rather than the Great Eight last night.

Because of its recent NCAA Tournament collapses, Kansas' precision regular-season starts to get overlooked.

But Kentucky made the Jayhawks look anything but precise. Much the quicker and more aggressive team, UK beat Kansas 63-45. It was the Jayhawks' lowest point total since a 42-41 loss to Missouri on Feb. 9, 1982.

"We tried to intimidate them one on one and in rebounding," backup point guard Saul Smith said. "They were kind of disoriented from our pressure."

Smith called it Kentucky's best defensive effort of the season. Starting point guard Wayne Turner saw it as a continuation of the sweat UK put into its defense in the second half against UCLA Saturday in Puerto Rico. As a bonus, Kansas' plodding players and shallow bench made for a better opponent to exploit than quick and deep UCLA.

"I think they were a little surprised with the way we got in their faces," said Turner, who led UK with 14 points. "I don't think they attacked us like UCLA. They were not all that aggressive. To me, it was like they were conserving energy. We were the opposite. We were trying to wear them down."

No. 8 Kentucky (6-1) controlled the game throughout.

"This was our best effort of the year, especially on the we have recently.

Meanwhile, Kansas (4-1) had its No. 7 ranking look to be the product of a glorious tradition and a soft schedule (Gonzaga, Penn, Fort Hays State and UNLV).

"I hate to use the word embarrassing," Kansas Coach Roy Williams said.

Starting guard Ryan Robertson spoke more freely.

"Coach can't say it," Robertson said. "It was embarrassing to me."

In assuming a 41-22 halftime lead, Kentucky outrebounded, outshot and simply outhustled Kansas.

Like the word "embarrassing," Williams swallowed hard to say the word "outhustled."

"In 11 years (at Kansas), I've not said it often," the Kansas coach said. "That's the coach's fault."

UK built a 10-point lead inside the first seven minutes. The Jayhawks got no closer than eight points the rest of the half. And got that close only briefly before the Cats steadily pulled away.

Kansas made only seven of 28 first-half shots. Worse, the Jayhawks missed badly. Kansas had:

* Four bricks, including a three-pointer from the corner by freshman guard Jeff Boschee that hit the side of the backboard.

* Two airballs, and that didn't count T.J. Pugh's free throw that hit nothing.

Kansas had shown a knack for using rebounding to compensate for missed shots. The Jayhawks entered the game with a plus-10 rebound margin.

But UK controlled the boards 22-16. Kansas did not grab an offensive rebound in the first seven minutes. The first came when Pugh's shot from the top of the key ricocheted so hard off the glass it was rebounded near the foul line. By then, UK led 15-5. Fittingly, a rebound put back by Heshimu Evans, who led all first-half scorers with 11 points, gave the Cats their first double-digit lead.

"It was pretty evident what happened," Williams said. "You don't have to be a nuclear scientist. They kicked our tails."

Speculation about Williams' most lopsided loss in 11 seasons as Kansas coach (123-95 at Oklahoma in 1989) ended midway through the second half.

Kansas closed to within 51-41 with 11:20 left.

The Jayhawks got to within 10, thanks in part, to a rebound of a missed free throw. Kansas converted the extra possession when Robertson hit a jumper.

Eric Chenowith's tip-in reduced the UK lead to 51-41.

Kansas got to within 51-42 when former Louisiana State player Lester Earl made a free throw with 9:21 left.

Kentucky wobbled. Saul Smith's leaner rolled off the top of the backboard. Later he got called for a five-second violation.

But Prince ended a four-minute scoring drought by hitting a shot from baseline. That eased the pressure and pointed UK to victory.

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