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CATS PULL OUT 'HUGE' WIN

Date story published: Saturday, December 23, 2000

LOUISVILLE -- Kentucky looked to avoid the program's first 3-6 start to a season since 1926. And as point guard Saul Smith suggested earlier in the week, such a big-time game put the onus on UK's big-time players.

Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans delivered -- as Dick Cheney might say -- big time.

Bogans and Prince combined for 46 points -- all but 16 coming in a second half that saw Kentucky's shooting blitz Indiana -- as the Cats rallied for an 88-74 win at Freedom Hall.

Trailing 37-36 at halftime, UK made 16 of its first 19 shots in the second half. That dead-eye shooting propelled UK to its best accuracy in the era of the three-point shot -- 68.9 percent.

It also drove Indiana's interim coach, Mike Davis, to public despair. In his post-game news conference, Davis questioned his team's toughness and his own fitness for the job.

"I told (the players) I'm not the guy for the job. I can't want it more than they do. It can't be that way. Maybe the guy they bring in next (year) can get them to play hard.

"Our fans traveled here, paid their money and we quit."

Indiana, which fell to 7-5, committed 11 second-half turnovers.

Kentucky, now 4-5 and happily headed home for Christmas before resuming the schedule in a breather against High Point next week, faced its moment of crisis in this game.

Bogans, who scored a career-high 26 points, and Prince, who added 20 points and equalled a career-high six assists, answered the call. Neither swaggered afterward. Each noted the lift freshman Gerald Fitch provided as a first-time starter in a sleeker, smaller lineup.

But Smith unabashedly credited Bogans and Prince for stepping up as he said leaders should.

"A great example," said the point guard, adding that he did not mean to limit the leadership to scoring. "You saw Keith and Tayshaun diving on the floor. That was crucial."

UK Coach Tubby Smith noted the importance of contributions from Bogans and Prince.

"People, when they design defenses, are going to try to limit them first and foremost," the UK coach said. "If they have big games, that means we've kind of broken through their defensive scheme."

Kentucky followed a familiar script early. The Cats looked sharp and zipped to a lead. UK scored the first seven points at Michigan State last weekend and enjoyed early leads earlier this season against Georgia Tech (10-2), Eastern Kentucky (22-7) and Penn State (8-2).

Against Indiana, UK scored the game's first eight points. A smaller lineup -- Fitch, who played so well at Michigan State, earned his first collegiate start in place of Marvin Stone -- fueled the quick break from the gate. He scored six of the points as Kentucky led 10-2 barely three minutes into the game.

"I think it's a better lineup," Bogans said. "We can get up and down the court."

He didn't mean a slight toward Stone. Coming off the bench, Stone contributed 13 points (one shy of a career high), seven rebounds and a career-high four blocks.

With close games the norm this season, an Indiana rally seemed inevitable. And it came thanks to center Kirk Haston. Making his first start in six games, Haston scored 10 of the Hoosiers' first 14 points. His two free throws tied it at 14-14 with 12 minutes left.

Turnovers crippled Kentucky's chances of throwing an early knockout punch. The Cats committed 11 turnovers in the game's first nine minutes.

UK, which committed only 13 turnovers in its button-down performance at Michigan State, coughed up the ball for a 13th time with 6:55 left in the first half.

Indiana's history of fast starts to the second half did not bode well for Kentucky.

However, Kentucky got the breakout and it came with Smith on the bench because of three fouls. UK reeled off 11 straight points to take its largest lead, 55-45, with 14:20 left.

The Cats attacked inside mostly. And Indiana turnovers --three in a four-possession sequence -- helped. The cap to the breakout was a momentum bomb.

Dane Fife fell near mid-court as he dribbled upcourt against pressure by Bogans. Bogans scooped up the ball and fed Prince for a three-pointer that gave the Cats a 10-point lead.

Jared Jeffries tried to single-handedly bring Indiana back. He scored seven straight points to pull the Hoosiers twice to within six points.

But Kentucky scored the next six points to start a 14-4 run to bring victory within view.

"Keith was patient," Tubby Smith said of Bogans' big night. "He didn't rush things. He let the offense come to him. Keith's been pretty anxious. He was thinking he had to do more. That led to some ill-advised shots."

The UK coach credited a favorable matchup for Prince's production. IU's tall, thin forwards -- Jeffrey Newton and Jeffries -- gave Prince players he could compete against physically.

Prince agreed. "I kind of had an advantage," he said. "Those guys were kind of my build. I was getting some inside baskets."

Saul Smith had all but predicted the result: such big-time performances would bring a big-time victory.

And this one was big.

"Huge," Saul Smith said. "Huge, man. Huge is the one word you can use."

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