Date story published: Sunday, December 21, 2003
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky's 80-41 rout of Indiana yesterday gave forward Chuck Hayes a familiar feeling. That made the most lopsided game in the history of this storied series a bad news bearer for future UK opponents.
"The second half, that kind of gave me a little deja vu of last year," Hayes said. "The way we were pushing it, getting layups. That shows you how good this team can be."
Indeed, UK's second-half humiliation of Indiana resembled the more memorable wipeouts of last season (at Vanderbilt, at home against Vanderbilt, at Alabama, at home against Florida). UK certainly administered it in the same way: with suffocating defense that not only beat the opponent, but robbed it of the will to compete.
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"For the most part, we collapsed as a team," Indiana star Bracey Wright said of Kentucky's 48-15 second-half margin.
Indiana, which hadn't scored fewer points since a 62-40 loss at Iowa on Feb. 4, 1982, made only six of 36 second-half shots (16.7 percent). "I don't know what to say on that one," said Hayes as he tried to suppress a smile. "They just couldn't get any shots."
Once Kentucky found its capacity to crush opponents last season, the Cats stampeded one opponent after another. This romp in the RCA Dome led IU Coach Mike Davis to hold a soul-searching meeting with his team behind closed doors after the game.
"It's youth," said Davis after the hourlong meeting. "When the deer in the headlights starts, you know it's over."
Kentucky (6-0) needed a meeting of its own to jump-start this blowout. It came at halftime after the Cats shot 60 percent and dominated the boards, yet led only 32-26 at the break.
"They let us off the hook because they had 13 turnovers," Davis said. "Instead of a six-point game, it probably should have been a 12- or 13-point game because we didn't execute at all at the start of the game. We just sort of stood around and just hoped Bracey would make shots again."
Wright tried. He tied a career-high with six three-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points. But he needed 21 usually contested shots to do it. Worst, he and undersized forward Sean Kline got little help. The duo scored all but three of Indiana's points. The other Hoosiers shot a combined 1-for-28.
Yet Indiana (4-4) stayed close, at least for a half, thanks to the UK turnovers and its own effort.
"Our energy level was low, man," UK guard Gerald Fitch said. "They were outhustling us in all the hustle stats. That was keeping them in the game."
UK Coach Tubby Smith made that point with R-rated halftime rhetoric.
"Well, I just told them they were going to pay if they did not play a lot harder in the second half," Smith said in his post-game news conference. "Not in those words, but similar to that."
Kentucky responded immediately. A Cliff Hawkins lob to Hayes opened the second-half scoring. After a Wright miss, Hayes posted up for a basket and the momentum began building. UK outscored Indiana 22-5 in the first 12 minutes of the second half. Twice Davis called timeouts to no avail.
"We bounced back in the second half with a different attitude, with a different effort," Smith said. "A better effort."
Indiana matched its lowest point total against Kentucky since 1943 (a 66-41 loss). Antwain Barbour attributed this to nothing more extraordinary than business-as-usual defense.
"Just how we play," he said. "We try to pressure people to make them take bad shots and make them do things they don't want to do. It's hard for teams to score when you take them out of their offense."
Following the example of earlier Indiana opponents, Kentucky dominated inside. Erik Daniels (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Hayes (22 points, 10 rebounds) recorded double-doubles as the Cats enjoyed a 54-25 rebounding advantage.
"They had more rebounds than we had points," Wright said. "They killed us on the inside."
With Hawkins disruptive as always, UK controlled the perimeter, too.
"Cliff Hawkins on the ball terrorizes you," Kline said.
Like Barbour, Hawkins wondered why all the fuss.
"Surprised?" he said. "Nah. We came out in the second half and got after them defensively. You stop people from scoring and you're scoring, things can happen."
As Hayes suggested, it looked familiar.