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WILDCATS SUFFER WORST LOSS IN TUBBY SMITH ERA

Date story published: Sunday, December 11, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS -- If this was the rest of Kentucky's season without Randolph Morris, we now know why Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart so vehemently pledged to appeal the big man's season-long suspension.

Kentucky played poorly on defense and offense from tip-off to final buzzer in losing to Indiana 79-53 yesterday in the SOS, er, RCA Dome. A check of the record books revealed that this was UK's most lopsided loss in this storied series between basketball heavyweights, worst in the Tubby Smith era and worst for proud Kentucky against anyone since the freakish 150-95 defeat at Kansas on Dec. 9, 1989.What made this scarier was how easily it fit into basketball normality. No stubborn insistence on pressing a vastly superior opponent, which explained the 55-point blowout at Kansas in Rick Pitino's first season.

Indiana predictably whipped Kentucky. Marco Killingsworth, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, lived up to his billing as the best -- the only? -- physical presence around the basket.

Throw in Kentucky's panicked abandonment of a game plan and we're on a fast track to embarrassment.

When asked about UK's early impulse to go one-on-one, Smith said, "That's been our M.O. That's been our profile. If we get a little pressure, a little adversity, get behind, they think it's their time to bail us out in a hurry."

Smith saluted Indiana (5-2) which successfully dealt with lackadaisical issues produced by a Tuesday loss at Indiana State.

"They obviously were hungrier and more aggressive than we were," said Smith, who added a moment later, "My hat is off to Indiana for outplaying us in every way."

Kentucky missed its first 20 three-point shots, and finally got a three when Brandon Stockton hit an odd-looking leaner from beyond the arc with 3:34 left. That enabled Kentucky to extend its streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer to 584, the nation's third longest such streak.

Otherwise, UK accomplished precious little in falling to 6-3.

When asked what he thought of UK's two-for-27 three-point shooting, Joe Crawford said, "I just think ridiculous."

Ramel Bradley, who missed all seven of his three-point attempts, spoke bravely of the difference good shooting would have made. "All the shots I know I can normally make," he said, "they just weren't falling."

More telling, though, was the difference in the low post. One team had a hammer, Killingsworth, who surpassed his previous high of 13 points against UK with 6:49 left in the first half.

By contrast, Smith noted that not one of UK's big men shot a free throw.

What difference can a low-post game make? "You saw it today first-hand," the UK coach said. "When you have an inside presence and (the defense) has to help inside, it opens up the outside."

Killingsworth credited two factors for his big game. He needed to redeem himself from a 10-point, seven-turnover debacle in IU's loss to Indiana State on Tuesday.

And, Killingsworth cited a dislike of Kentucky.

"If you play on the college level, you ain't gonna like Kentucky," he said. "You just ain't gonna like them. They're just one of those teams you're gonna love them or you're gonna hate them, and I hate them. I'm being straight forward with you. I don't like them."

Killingsworth got Shagari Alleyne, the hero in UK's victory at Georgia State on Tuesday, in immediate foul trouble.

"We didn't trap down," Bradley said of defending Killingsworth. "We didn't get in the right rotation. He just had a field day."

Nothing told the tale of Kentucky's disjointed play than the assist-to-turnover ratio: four assists, 19 turnovers.

With that ratio, Smith said, "You're not going to beat anybody."

UK's four assists were its fewest since Jan. 3, 1987, when the Cats also got four at Auburn. "That means we're not looking for people," Smith said of the four assists. "Not penetrating and pitching (to the open man)."

Oddly enough, Kentucky won the game at Auburn 63-60 by shooting well (50 percent overall, six of 13 from three-point range).

UK shot horribly against Indiana, and its defense wasn't much better. Led by Killingsworth, Indiana made 53.3 percent of its shots.

"We just couldn't make outside shots," point guard Rajon Rondo said. "We didn't crash the boards when we missed.

"We were supposed to keep it out of the post. We couldn't stop that either."

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