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Cats short again

Date story published: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HOUSTON -- Playing for the first time in more than a month, sophomore Jodie Meeks scored a career-high 21 points last night. Jared Carter scored his first points of the season and finished with a career-high six.

But in this topsy-turvy Kentucky season, bad news always seems to accompany positive developments.

Freshman big man Patrick Patterson did not play, and Kentucky lost a fourth straight game for the first time since 1989-90. Houston, with a full house cheering a victory over a name opponent, won 83-69.

Kentucky, 4-5 for only the fourth time in the proud program's history since 1927, fought valiantly.

The Cats reduced a 25-point deficit to 10 down the stretch. But Houston held on to post its 10th victory in 11 games.

Sporting a shaved head, Joe Crawford fueled the late rally by scoring 10 of his game-high 28 points in barely more than three minutes. He shaved his head, Crawford said, "to show better commitment to the team and myself."

Dion Dowell led Houston with 19 points. Robert McKiver added 18.

Kentucky's makeshift season took more strange turns at tipoff. Patterson, one of the Cats' few mainstays and one of only two players to start every game, did not play because of a turned ankle. That meant the eighth starting lineup in nine games.

"Patrick's played great for us," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said. "He's a major part of our deal. The players have such great confidence in Patrick. When we said Patrick's not playing, you see a look in their eyes you really don't want to see."

Without Patterson, Kentucky was vulnerable around the basket. Houston outrebounded UK 38-33 and outscored the Cats 28-7 in second-chance points.

"We've not gotten a defensive rebound all year," Gillispie said. "You have to be tough enough to push your man out of bounds or go hard for the ball. We're not doing either."

On the positive side, Meeks returned to active duty in a big way. Playing his first game since the Gardner-Webb loss on Nov. 7, Meeks scored 17 first-half points. That left him only one point shy of a career high.

Meeks made six of his first nine shots (four of six from three-point range) to pace UK's good-shooting first half. The Cats made 12 of 23 shots with Meeks tying a career high with four three-pointers. That shooting kept the Cats competitive.

Meeks acknowledged his surprise at shooting well the first time back in a game. "A little bit," he said. "My teammates did a great job finding me."

Kentucky never led by more than one point, the last time coming at 28-27 on a three-point play by Crawford, who dunked while being fouled, with 7:46 left.

Ten seconds later, Dowell put Houston ahead 29-28 with two free throws. Dowell led the Cougars with 10 first-half points.

Dowell, who had 18 points at Rupp Arena last season, hit two three-pointers down the stretch in the half. Those shots helped Houston outscore Kentucky 13-3 in the final six minutes.

Dowell's second three, on a pick and roll, gave Houston its first double-digit lead, 43-33, with 2:29 left in the first half. The Cougars were up 12 at the break.

Houston extended its lead early in the second half as UK's shooting cooled off. The Cats made only two of their first 10 shots to start the half.

With Patterson unavailable, Houston did good work around the basket. Tafari Toney had three straight putbacks.

A Dowell three-pointer extended Houston's lead to 60-41. After the Cats threw away a pass, UK called timeout with 12:20 left.

Kentucky continued to crumble as the second half unfolded. When Marcus Malone sped to a fast-break layup, Crawford fouled him intentionally. Malone's free throws put Houston ahead 66-43.

Houston, which had lost three previous games against Kentucky, extended the lead to as much as 25 points.

Referee Doug Shows hit Gillispie with a technical foul at the 8:20 mark. The UK coach came on the floor gesturing for a foul as Houston players swarmed for a loose ball as guard Michael Porter and Meeks fell to the floor.

Houston reveled in a signature victory. "It doesn't matter who was on the floor (for Kentucky)," Coach Tom Penders said. "We felt we were the better team. We felt we had better guards. And Dion Dowell was the best player on the floor."


Among those in attendance were former UK stars Chuck Hayes and Keith Bogans. Hayes plays for the Houston Rockets. Bogans plays for the Orlando Magic, which plays the Rockets here tonight.

Former UK quarterback Shane Boyd, a backup with the Houston Texans, also came to the game.

Former Houston star Clyde Drexler also attended.