Date story published: Sunday, January 12, 2003
For a second time in the week, Kentucky's best weapon was a depth charge.
UK Coach Tubby Smith repeatedly used his bench in the 62-55 victory over South Carolina last night.
Early in the game, the reserves injected life in the strangely listless Cats. Later, the bench served as punishment for careless play (a season-high 22 turnovers).
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Earlier in the week, Jules Camara came off the UK bench to hit two clutch shots that helped Kentucky beat Tennessee.
Both coaches credited Kentucky's bench as a critical factor last night.
"Absolutely," Smith said. "That's the key to it."
South Carolina Coach Dave Odom echoed the sentiment. "As we rolled through the lineup, Kentucky's depth became a factor," he said. "We weren't able to sustain the play we showed earlier (in the game)."
By contrast, Smith went to his bench to prevent UK from sustaining its early play.
By the 14:29 mark, he had benched all five starters.
"Our expectations are pretty high," the UK coach said. "We expect them to come with the right attitude."
The starters returned after a television timeout at the 11:18 mark. But with 8:44 left, Smith benched starting guards Gerald Fitch and Keith Bogans again. Neither returned the rest of the half.
"Twenty-two turnovers are entirely too many," he said. "Sort of careless. ... Something we just can't tolerate."
Late in the game, Smith again benched Fitch after the UK player needlessly took a shot when the Cats were trying to protect a lead.
Although South Carolina's reserves outscored UK's 23-14, the second-line Cats set an early tone that turned around the game.
"I don't think of first and second units," Smith said. "They can beat the first unit. That's the kind of energy we have to have."
South Carolina did not shoot a free throw until Kerbrell Brown stepped to the line with 1:10 remaining in the second half.
Sophomore Carlos Powell noted that each South Carolina player sets a goal of getting to the free-throw line three times a game.
"When Kerbrell was shooting his first free throw, I was, like, 'Hey, that's the first free throw we shot,' " Carlos Powell said. " 'Is that possible?' "
Odom explained why it was not only possible, but inevitable that the Gamecocks shot all four of their free throws in the final 70 seconds..
"That doesn't say anything about the officiating," the South Carolina coach said. "Just that we were hoisting up too many threes. We didn't challenge them inside like we should have to get those fouls."
Kentucky led by 21 points early in the second half. Then the Cats repeated their habit of failing to deliver a knockout blow.
South Carolina closed to within 56-47 with 3:18 left.
While UK players spoke of having to learn how to put teams away, Odom saw the rally as an illusion.
"You can't say we had any real chance to win the game at the end," the South Carolina coach said.
The Gamecocks did not get closer than nine points of UK until the final 21 seconds.
'eRUPPtion Zone' erupts
When Josh Carrier missed his only shot of the first half (a three-pointer from the top of the key), a voice from the eRUPPtion Zone could be heard.
The voice said, "Send him back to Bowling Green."
Vandy not dandy
A reporter suggested that Bogans would look forward to Tuesday's game at Vanderbilt. The UK player recoiled.
"It's OK," he said, "but it's not one of my favorites. The fans down there, they try to kill me."
Bogans' 10 points increased his career total to 1,607. He needs 31 more to pass Ed Davender and join the top 10 in UK's career scoring list. ... South Carolina's four free throws were the fewest shot by a UK opponent since Virginia Military Institute was 0-for-3 from the line on Dec. 5, 2001. The last SEC opponent to shoot so few free throws against Kentucky? Vanderbilt made four of four attempts in a 73-57 home loss to the Cats on Jan. 9, 1999.