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Date story published: Sunday, January 16, 2005

ATHENS, Ga. -- With the mystery of Joe Crawford's future hanging in the air, Kentucky's no-sweat 76-55 victory over outmanned Georgia yesterday served as stark contrast.

The game featured the elevation of senior Chuck Hayes to the pantheon of UK stars. Hayes scored 13 points to become the 52nd UK player to reach the 1,000-point mark in his career.

Hayes, who also grabbed 11 rebounds to move within 18 of Kentucky's top 10, downplayed his four-figure point total.

"It had to happen sooner or later," he said. "I've been here four years."

A moment later, Hayes quipped, "Now I'm in the media guide on the back page with those (1,000-point scorers). Big Dan (Issel), Jamal (Mashburn), all of 'em. I'll go hang out with them."

Probably nothing pleased UK Coach Tubby Smith more than to see his slow-and-steady tortoise complete this path to a form of immortality.

Without mentioning Crawford, who departed Monday after a 12-game career because of playing-time complaints and now wants to return, Smith saluted Hayes' dependability and productivity.

"It couldn't happen to a better kid," Smith said of Hayes' ascension to the 1,000-point club. "Chuck Hayes epitomizes what college basketball stands for. He's just a blue-collar worker who understands and enjoys the college experience. ...

"He's a guy who's made the most of his opportunity. A lot of people perceive him as a 'tweener.' In between (ideal power-forward and small-forward size). He's one of the best players I've ever coached and one of my most talented players. At his size, to do what he does, you can't ask for much more."

Hayes reached the 1,000-point mark with 17:29 left in the game when he made one of two free throws.

Kentucky, 12-2 overall and 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference, could have picked whatever achievement it wanted yesterday. Georgia, which lost its fifth in a row, was down to six healthy scholarship players (four freshmen and two sophomores).

The Bulldogs, who continued on a path to their own kind of immortality (first winless SEC record since Georgia Tech went 0-14 in 1953-54), fell to 6-8 overall and 0-4 in the league.

Rather than load up on highlight material or pad individual statistics, Kentucky kept to the task. The Cats dominated the boards 44-18 and shot an efficient 55.6 percent.

"Good game plan," Smith said. "I thought our kids executed."

The good shooting kept Kentucky in charge. The Cats led by 10 barely five minutes into the game and steadily expanded the margin to as much as 30 midway through the second half despite liberal substitutions. Even UK's substitutes enjoyed a decided advantage against a Georgia team that played four walk-ons at various junctures and five near the end.

The game marked UK's second straight solid shooting performance. The Cats made a season-high 57.8 percent of their shots against Vanderbilt earlier in the week.

"I think the kids learned the lesson," Smith said of the 30.9-percent shooting against Kansas last weekend that punctuated an early-season habit of quick shooting and solo sojourns. "We had 16 or 18 bad shots (against Kansas). Horrible shots. We had to correct that right away. That's contagious."

Shagari Alleyne, who chipped in with seven points and three rebounds, cited the patience UK exhibited for a second straight game.

"That's exactly it: the patience," he said. "The key was a lot more patience. ... That's what enabled us to get those open shots and score like that."

Georgia Coach Dennis Felton hoped his trademark aggressive defense might disrupt Kentucky's efficiency, might cause the Cats to go solo. But led by Hayes' example, UK stuck to business and put a methodical, almost predictable beating on the Bulldogs.