Date story published: Sunday, December 10, 2000
ATLANTA -- Kentucky's continuing generosity during this holiday season had Coach Tubby Smith concerned.
In an 86-84 loss to Georgia Tech, UK surrendered 12 three-point shots. That marked the third time in the last four games that the opponent made 10 or more treys. That happened only four times all of last season.
Against Tech, UK found itself with a defense-stretching dilemma. The Cats emphasized containing Tech's leading scorer, classic low-post center Alvin Jones. That kept UK players a precious millisecond or two from getting out to defend on the perimeter.
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The result: Uncontested shots on the perimeter for Tech.
"Half the threes they made were probably uncontested," swingman Tayshaun Prince said. "We tried to protect the inside because we knew Alvin Jones was playing well right now. And we didn't really get out there."
Point guard Saul Smith agreed. To make the point, he cited the 14 three-pointers Penn State rained on Kentucky two weeks earlier.
"Those threes were contested," Saul Smith said of the Joe and Jon Crispin show. "Very much more so than (against Tech, which had) a lot of uncontested threes. And that's unacceptable."
Tubby Smith acknowledged the continuing "real challenge" in containing the opposition's perimeter shooters. Of course, UK's Ball-Line Defense puts its first priority on containing the inside scoring.
The UK coach cited the game-winning shot as a "perfect example" of the problem. Guard Keith Bogans' instincts were to help inside. That got him out to Tech's Shaun Fein a moment late. Given Tech's perimeter shooting this day, he had to bite on Fein's shot-fake, which allowed the Tech guard to free himself with one dribble and shoot an uncontested shot.
"I don't know why he was jogging out there and not sprinting out," Tubby Smith said of Bogans' defense on the play. "Maybe we have to work on our foot speed and quickness."
Flat and sloppy
Each team corrected its problems from the game before. UK wanted better ball control and committed a season-low 10 turnovers. Tech got spirited play after a self-described "flat" performance in a mid-week loss to Georgia.
"One of the hardest things to get them to understand is that if you give a great effort every time, you're going to give yourself a chance," Tech Coach Paul Hewitt said. "Today, maybe we're starting to grasp that concept."
Shaun Fein credited Hewitt for getting the Yellow Jackets to make amends for the flat performance.
"He didn't let us get too down," the Tech guard said. "He got us together and told us to believe in ourselves. Don't feel sorry for yourself. It's just one loss. It's a long season."
UK big man Marvin Stone acknowledged how hard Tech played. "Maybe they played a little harder and wanted it a little more," he said.
Maybe so. But UK hustled, too.
Among the hustle plays on both sides were UK calling a timeout when Marquis Estill could not inbounds the ball, Alvin Jones calling a timeout for Tech when caught in a trap, Tech committing a five-second violation when Clarence Moore could not inbounds the ball and UK freshman Cliff Hawkins being called for a five-second violation when closely guarded by Tony Akins.
UK's Tayshaun Prince had to be helped off the court with 9:27 left. He fell to the floor awkwardly after delivering a hard foul to stop Jon Babul's drive to the basket. Prince returned later to help lead UK's rally.
"I just hyperextended it when I landed on the ground," Prince said of his right knee, which was being iced after the game. "It's day-to-day. There still was some soreness when I went back into the game."
Yes, Prince said, the soreness didn't help any when he missed two jumpers in the final minutes.
"One was desperation" to beat the shot clock, Prince said. "The 13-footer, I should have made. Probably my legs were not bent. I was tired a little bit."
Prince had 20 points and 10 rebounds, the latter one short of his career high. It was only the second double-double of his career. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Tech last season.
UK trainer David Kindy said that an initial examination of Prince's knee suggested no serious injury.
Free-throw shooting continued to hurt the Cats. UK made 20 of 32 free throws (62.5 percent). ... Jason Parker and Cliff Hawkins continued to experience the ups and downs of being freshmen. Parker made only three of 10 shots. Hawkins had one assist and four turnovers. That gave him 11 assists and 16 turnovers this season.
No Knute Rockne speeches were needed to fuel a rally when UK trailed by 13 with less than six minutes left.
"We knew we were 3-3," Prince said. "We had to make a comeback."