Date story published: Thursday, January 6, 2005
Kentucky's Southeastern Conference opener was largely decided man to man. Fortunately for UK, its man was Chuck Hayes.
Hayes, the Cats' All-America candidate, took it upon himself to shut down South Carolina's leading scorer, Carlos Powell. Because he did, Kentucky prevailed 79-75 in a grinding test of wills.
Powell got the better of it early, capping a 13-point first half by swishing a pair of three-pointers in the final two minutes.
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No one had to tell Hayes that Powell came into the game having made only one of nine shots from beyond the arc this season.
"I read up on him," Hayes said. "I knew I had a test ahead of me. I did my research on him.
"The first one, I thought, 'Hey, anybody can be good for one.' The second one, that killed me."
Actually, it set in motion a chain of events that propelled No. 8 Kentucky to its 10th victory in 11 games.
First and foremost, it aroused Hayes, already UK's fiercest competitor, to a righteous passion.
"Senior to senior, captain to captain," Hayes said of his second-half determination to defend Powell. "I took it personally."
Powell scored two second-half points, the product of a shot that required several pump-fakes to lose Hayes.
"I didn't think Chuck got the better of me in either half," Powell said. "If you look at the boxscore, he was four of 10 from the floor."
True enough, Hayes continued to struggle with finishing plays around the basket. But he did the critical chore of amping up the Cats' defense in the second half.
Of that, Powell did not argue.
"He clamped down on me," Powell said. "It came down to a few buckets, and I thought we were going to pull them out."
South Carolina, which lost for the third time after extending a top-10 team to the final minute, fell to 8-4.
Hayes was hardly alone in questioning his first-half defense.
South Carolina, much the quicker and more athletic team, made 58.6 percent of its first-half shots in taking a 41-35 halftime lead.
"We didn't guard anybody; I could have made threes tonight," UK Coach Tubby Smith said of South Carolina's six-for-12 first-half shooting from beyond the arc. "We gave up wide-open threes all night. It was a joke."
At halftime, Smith ordered more aggressive play. "Usually when you're more aggressive, you're more physical ... ," he said. "Chuck set the tone in the second half. He really came out and did a good job on Carlos Powell. He was killing us in the first half."
Powell made all five of his first-half shots. He got off three in the second half, making one.
"He's Erik Daniels," said Hayes, using his best UK buddy and teammate of last season as a reference to Powell. "Erik Daniels to a tee. I had trouble guarding Erik (in practice) sometimes because he's a lefty. Lefties find ways to get angles."
In the second half, Hayes decided to deny Powell the ball as much as possible. And when South Carolina's leading scorer (14.5 ppg) got the ball, Hayes tried to force a dribble.
While South Carolina had to make do without Powell's scoring, Kentucky took control. The Cats used a 16-4 run mid-way through the second half to establish a 66-57 margin to nurse through the final seven minutes.
"It's tremendously disappointing not to be able to come out of the locker room and hold our own defensively," South Carolina Coach Dave Odom said. "You know Kentucky is going to give a giant effort (in the second half). They did. For us not to be a little more resilient and competitive inside in the second half, I find that a little hard to (pause) accept."
Of some consolation was South Carolina's 53.6 percent shooting for the game. That snapped Kentucky's 42-game streak of holding opponents to less than 50-percent accuracy.
Hayes called that streak "a pride thing."
But Hayes, who had his leadership questioned by Smith after UK's slumbering second half against Campbell last week, was philosophical.
"Hey, it's going to happen," he said. "Fortunately, it came at a time we didn't really need it."