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DESPITE WHISTLES, CATS PLEASE SMITH WITH SCREENS

Date story published: Sunday, February 3, 2002

Throughout the season, Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith has asked his players to set more screens.

So the players might have felt like darned if you do, darned if you don't yesterday. Three times the Cats were called for illegal screens in the 91-74 victory over South Carolina.

The bigger surprise might have been who supposedly set the illegal screens. Not a wide body like center Marquis Estill. Twice it was point guard Cliff Hawkins, and once willowy swingman Tayshaun Prince.

"One might have been (a screen)," Hawkins conceded. "One might have been a joke."

But, Hawkins noted, the calls did not anger Smith.

"He wants us to screen and move," Hawkins said. "It's a foul. But it's a good foul. We're trying to get somebody open."

Prince, who said he could not remember the the last time he was called for an illegal screen, said it's a judgment call with a capital "J".

"Some referees pay attention to how cleanly a screen is set," he said. "In one game, there might be none. It another game, there might be three or four. Certain referees are looking at certain things."

Prince said he did not know what the referees saw that made his screen illegal against South Carolina.

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said.

One for all

With the post-season looming ever closer, Smith said it was time for team goals to eclipse personal agendas.

"In our situation, you have guys thinking 'Why am I not playing?' 'How much playing time am I going to get?' " the UK coach said. "But you need to focus on the big picture. That's teamwork and that's what we're trying to get them to think."

As tipoffs to team thinking, Smith said he looks for the willingness to make an extra pass or set a screen. But mostly, he said, he studies the defensive end of the floor.

"Did he step in and take a charge when somebody got beat off the dribble?" Smith said. "Did he rotate up? I saw that today. ...

"I hope we learn as the season goes on it's not who starts, but how we play the game and when you're in the game, are you being productive?"

Carolina killer

Hawkins hit the game- winning shot at Columbia last month. Yesterday, his 15 points and three assists more than made up for five turnovers in helping the Cats sweep the season series with USC.

"Everybody knows Hawkins has been a pain for us all year," South Carolina Coach Dave Odom said. "If we do get another opportunity to play Kentucky, I think we've got to refigure how we play him.

"His eyes light up like garnet and black (South Carolina's colors) when he sees us coming."

Eidson, indeed

You couldn't tell yesterday that South Carolina's Chuck Eidson had been battling a shooting slump for much of the last two seasons (18.4 percent three-point shooting last season, 39.2 percent overall accuracy this season).

Against UK, Eidson made eight of 15 shots (six of 10 from three-point range) in scoring a career-high 25 points. He'd made only six three-pointers in seven Southeastern Conference games coming into Rupp Arena.

Eidson's improvement coincides with a move to the backcourt. He made six of eight shots in scoring a season-high 17 points against Georgia earlier in the week.

"Chuck had his game with him," Odom said. "He continues to get better. The more we ask of him, seemingly the better his overall game is."

Eidson also had five rebounds, a game-high seven assists, a game-high five steals and only two turnovers in 37 minutes.

De-fense, de-fense

UK scored the most points by a South Carolina opponent this season.

Outside of Eidson and an early spurt by Jamel Bradley, South Carolina struggled to score against Kentucky.

"We sustained our defense for longer periods of time than we have for a while," Smith said. "We've gotten better. I thought ball pressure was the key. Keeping pressure on the passers and the ball handlers. And limiting their second shots."

Bradley, who ranked second in SEC play with 3.71 three-pointers a game, had three baskets --including two three-pointers -- in the first five minutes. But he had only two more baskets in the final 35 minutes.

UK had a good week stopping the opposition's top three-point threat. Florida's Brett Nelson, who led the SEC with 4.14 three-pointers a game, also came out hot but wound up shooting five of 16.

Etc.

Prince scored 16 points to move past Mike Casey for 11th place on UK's career scoring list. With 1,547 points, Prince needs 29 to pass Louie Dampier and enter the top 10. ... Keith Bogans' five points inched him past Deron Feldhaus for 30th place on the scoring list. Bogans has 1,235 points. Next up: Tom Parker at 1,238. ...When an Eidson elbow cut Erik Daniels above the right eye, J.P. Blevins came off the bench to take -- and make -- Daniels' two free throws. A career 70.2 percent free-throw shooter, Blevins improved to 4-for-4 this season.

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