Date story published: Friday, November 27, 1998
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico - Kentucky had eight assists, 20 turnovers and, believe it or not, a Prince of a game yesterday.
Freshman Tayshaun Prince played a big part in making an otherwise uninspired UK performance good enough to beat undersized Colorado 64-52 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Shootout.
Specifically, Prince showed how he can give UK's team a new dimension: height. As a 6-foot-8 shooting guard, he was taller than any Colorado starter. And despite his tender age, he knew how to exploit that advantage at both ends of the floor.
Offensively, Prince scored a team-high 15 points. Once, he used a 9-inch height advantage to post 5-11 Dwight Jones for a layup. More significantly, he also made UK's only three-pointer as the Cats continued to shoot ladrillos (the Spanish word for bricks) from the perimeter.
Defensively, Prince befuddled Colorado's shooters on the perimeter. The Buffaloes had been averaging 8.5 three-point baskets and shot 43 percent from behind the line. They made only two of 28 three-point shots against Kentucky. So it made a difference for Colorado's three-guard attack to face a much taller player like Prince.
"It definitely does," said Colorado's leading scorer, Kenny Price, who scored 16 points but made only two of 12 three-point attempts. "It discourages a lot of passes. Our guards aren't able to penetrate then. So it really stretches us out on offense. That's something we'll have to work on soon."
Asked if he really expected Colorado to work on facing a 6-8 guard, Price said, "Well, I hope not too soon."
Kentucky (4-0) advanced to today's second round against Pittsburgh, which beat No. 13 Xavier 94-76 yesterday.
As the game began, Colorado proved the words "quicker" and "Buffaloes" could go together. The Buffs blitzed the Cats' man-to-man defense and zipped to leads of 9-0 and 11-2.
"Early on, they attacked us with quickness right from the jump ball," UK Coach Tubby Smith said, "and took us right out of our man-to-man."
Colorado led 2-0 four seconds into the game when Will Smith dunked a lob pass from Jaquay Walls.
Like last season, versatility will be the strength of this Kentucky team. And the game changed when UK switched to a zone after a television timeout with 15:52 left in the first half.
Colorado (4-1) never solved UK's 1-2-2 and matchup zones. The Buffaloes went exactly 12 minutes without a basket. During that time, the Buffs missed 17 shots and Kentucky enjoyed a 20-1 run.
Prince scored five of those points (UK's only three-pointer and the post-up basket over Jones). Later in the half, as the Cats stretched their lead to as much as 30-15, he contributed a dunk and a pretty full-court foray when he evaded one defender with a behind-the-back dribble and then quick-dribbled past a second Buffalo for a layup.
"Tayshaun got us off to a great start," Smith said. "Not only with his scoring but with his defense. At 6-8, he presents a lot of problems for people on the perimeter. He can make shots as well as contest shots."
Prince said his teammates urged him to take an active role.
"We got off to a slow start," he said. "We needed somebody to put in a few baskets. So I tried to create something. I felt pretty comfortable. The seniors were telling me to keep trying to create stuff."
Against UK's zones, Colorado was anything but creative. The Buffs made only four of 33 shots in the first half. Overall, Colorado made only 27 percent of its shots.
"We made them shoot a little deeper with a hand in their face all the time," Smith said.
Besides being able to station a 6-8 defender on the perimeter, UK's zone enjoyed one other advantage. Colorado lacked a threatening inside scorer, so the Cats could guard the low post one-on-one rather than send a perimeter defender to the post.
"Usually we're trapping more on the post," Smith said.
Turnovers and poor second-half shooting (0-for-6 from three-point range, 13-for-31 overall) kept Kentucky from putting away Colorado. The Buffs were as close as 40-36 with barely more than 11 minutes left.
But an 11-0 UK run got the game under control. During that span, Colorado missed another seven straight shots against UK's zones.
"Any time you're not shooting the ball well and (the opponent) is zoning you, it makes for a long game," Colorado Coach Ricardo Patton said. "We are a very capable shooting team. But we just didn't shoot well."
Kentucky didn't play particularly well either. "But we got a win and advance on," forward Scott Padgett said.