Date story published: Wednesday, December 4, 2002
As in politics and comedy, timing can be everything in basketball. Bad timing as much as High Point served as Kentucky's opponent last night.
It took awhile, but UK subdued both. The Cats beat High Point 84-64 while holding off memories of last week's tropical paradise and anticipation of Saturday's high-profile game at North Carolina.
Antwain Barbour's broken hand further contributed to UK's distracted start. But the Cats, reconstituted with a bigger lineup, took charge in the second half with a better effort.
"I've been around long enough to know there's going to be an adjustment period there, especially sandwiched around a big game (at North Carolina)," UK Coach Tubby Smith said.
"I thought it showed a lot of mental toughness for our guys to stay focused and not get out of character by jacking up a lot of shots and doing things out of control."
If anything, Kentucky had too much control in the first half. Lulled by High Point's patient attack, the Cats failed to put the game away. Two hustle areas -- rebounding and defense -- reflected UK's lack of urgency. High Point outrebounded the Cats 12-11 in the first half and made 52 percent of its shots.
"We seemed to lack a little energy," Smith said.
Memories of Maui and thoughts of the Tar Heels contributed to that.
"I was thinking I was still supposed to be up at night," said Keith Bogans, who led UK's balanced attack with 21 points. "Like it's daylight, and I'm still in Hawaii."
Chuck Hayes, who contributed 11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, acknowledged thinking about North Carolina.
"We knew about (High Point) a little bit," Hayes said. "But you're going to keep North Carolina in the back of your head. Playing against North Carolina, that's why you come to Kentucky."
High Point, a 91-65 loser at Clemson last week, sought to keep the game close by spreading the floor and milking the shot clock. It worked for a half. The game's first three minutes indicated that High Point's quickness advantage could test UK. Danny Gathings, a 6-6 sophomore, drove around Jules Camara twice in the early going. Once, Gathings went around the UK big man's right side and once to the left to account for the first four of his 10 first-half points.
"I know they took us lightly," High Point Coach Jerry Steele said. "But they did what they had to do."
Kentucky, 3-1, did that in the second half -- not coincidently, after a halftime threat by Smith.
"I noticed the frustration in him at the end of the first half," point guard Gerald Fitch said. "He could not believe we played the way we played in the first half. I knew something was coming."
The UK coach mentioned the possibility of sprints at 6 this morning. "And we might come back and watch film (after the game)," Fitch said.
Ahead 38-32 at intermission, Kentucky opened the second half much more aggressively. The result showed about two minutes later.
After High Point got within 39-37 on a Brent Halsch three-pointer, Kentucky reeled off eight straight points. That fueled a 18-2 breakout over the next seven minutes that gave the Cats a 57-39 lead.
"It seemed longer than seven minutes," the High Point coach said.
Kentucky outplayed High Point in both half-court and full-court situations during the breakout. The Cats made seven of 11 shots. Meanwhile, High Point had more turnovers (two) than baskets (one).
"Gerald and Keith and Chuck really picked up the intensity in the second half," Smith said.
The rest was mostly the kind of domination one would expect when a Kentucky plays a High Point.