Date story published: Thursday, December 28, 2000
If old-fashioned Kentucky dominance was your thing, last night's game against High Point might have been the high point of this season.
If you preferred competitive action, it was Death Valley.
Kentucky played "name the score" as well as High Point, UK Coach Tubby Smith's alma mater and a 2-year-old Division I program.
The Cats won 102-49 in what was the most lopsided game in Smith's four seasons as coach. While acknowledging the difficulty of watching a rout of his alma mater -- and his coach as a senior at High Point to boot -- Smith welcomed a rare chance this season to coast.
"This is a game that I think will keep our confidence going in a positive direction," he said.
With more than 11 minutes left, the Cats led 76-24. That put the most lopsided victory in Smith's four seasons as Kentucky coach -- 97-47 over Tennessee State on Dec. 29, 1998 -- well within reach.
Given the lack of a competitive challenge, the UK coach could not be sure what the laugher meant. He could only hope it said something significant.
"They had played people pretty tough," he said of High Point. "I hope that means we're getting better."
Kentucky, which evened its record at 5-5, dominated throughout. But one run stood out: the Cats scored the first 28 points of the second half. For the record, UK outscored High Point 36-2 in the first nine minutes of the second half.
Having seen his team surrender more than one uncontested drive to the basket (a no-no in UK's Ball-Line Defense), Smith challenged the Cats to "concentrate and not get beat off the dribble as badly."
High Point (4-8) did not score in the second half until Dustin Van Weerdhuizen took a lob pass and laid it in with 12:20 left.
"In the second half, they just totally blitzed us," said Jerry Steele, High Point's coach for the last 29 seasons. "We were just at their mercy."
The first half was not as one-sided. Not that it was competitive either.
If it had been church-league softball, a mercy rule would have ended it there.
Kentucky made only one three-point shot in the first half. Yet the Cats enjoyed a 40-22 halftime lead.
UK's dominance inside explained the big lead and why the Cats could beat High Point with their perimeter shooting hands tied behind their backs.
All but two of UK's 16 first-half baskets came in the paint. For those into precise numbers, it was five layups, four rebound putbacks, three dunks and two baskets off low-post moves.
Another indication of Kentucky's superiority inside came at the foul line. Freshman center Jason Parker, who led UK with a career-high 16 points, had taken more than three free throws in a game only once. Against High Point he took four inside the first three minutes.
Kentucky also dominated the boards. The Cats enjoyed a 27-13 rebounding edge in the first half and 57-34 for the game.
Unlike in some previous games (Penn State in particular), the Cats seemed intent on exploiting the advantage inside. UK took only six three-point shots in the game's first 14 minutes.
Maybe more encouraging, Kentucky got quality as well as quantity from its inside play. For instance, crisp interior passes netted pretty baskets on back-to-back possessions. On the first, Marquis Estill fed a cutting Erik Daniels for a layup. On the second, Stone rewarded Daniels' cut to the hoop.
High Point scored only four baskets in the final 13 minutes of the half. Poor shooting (the Panthers made only four of their final 17 shots) contributed to the scoring drought. So did High Point's 13 first-half turnovers.
Kentucky's 12 first-half turnovers kept the margin from being even more laughable.
With the 28-0 run to start the second half, Kentucky got into a serious amount of garbage time.
"After playing tough teams like Michigan State and Indiana, we knew that we could not have a letdown," Tayshaun Prince said. "If we played well early, we knew we could grab a lead. And that's what we did."