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Cats' big men rise as the rest slumber

Date story published: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie benched freshman A.J. Stewart for sleeping at a pre-game meeting.

It certainly would have been understandable if anyone fell asleep watching Kentucky beat Stony Brook 62-52 last night.

In the final tuneup before playing No. 1 North Carolina, Kentucky labored to beat a winless team. Point guards Ramel Bradley and Michael Porter combined for 10 turnovers. Overall, UK had 11 assists and 23 turnovers.

"It's a win for us," Gillispie said before adding, "We're lucky to win. It was not pretty at all. We did get a win. We'll try to move on and try to get better."

UK improved to 4-1 largely because of freshman Patrick Patterson and -- surprise -- Perry Stevenson. The pair combined for eight straight points after Stony Brook (0-6) closed within 43-37 at the 6:36 mark of the second half.

Patterson led Kentucky with 19 points and 12 rebounds. It was his third double-double in a five-game college career.

Stevenson, who played for Stony Brook Coach Steve Pikiell in a college tour in Belgium last summer, added a career-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. It constituted his first double-double in two seasons.

"By far his best contest," Gillispie said. "He played with a little (more) confidence and a little more toughness. Hopefully we're going to continue on that path."

Patterson, who has been UK's lone presence around the basket much of the early season, welcomed Stevenson's contribution.

"I expect that out of him," Patterson said in an encouraging tone. "He can play like that when he wants to."

When told of Patterson's bold declaration, Stevenson said, "That's news to me."

Kentucky concluded the first half with the kind of defensive effort and fast-break score UK fans profess to love. Patterson and Ramon Harris trapped a Stony Brook player along the sideline. The desperation pass went to Stevenson, who fed Patterson for a transition layup in the final second to set the Cats' 26-14 halftime lead.

The polite applause that greeted this punctuation of a 10-0 Kentucky run spoke volumes about the sluggish action on display.

Until the final mini-flurry, it seemed the Stony Brook coach could mimic Gillispie's never-enough trick following the victory over Texas Southern three nights earlier. Gillispie lectured the team on the five second-half baskets by Texas Southern and how four should have been prevented.

Well, Kentucky did not get its sixth first-half basket against Stony Brook until Stevenson rolled in a pull-up shot in the lane with 5:23 left. That shot put the Cats ahead for good, 14-12, in a night that saw UK make only three of its first 17 shots.

Stevenson, who had scored only eight points in the season's first four games, got the offense going with a couple of put-back baskets. He finished the half with nine points, putting him well on pace to surpass his career high of 14.

Kentucky did not get a basket until Patterson's putback at the 14:46 mark. The second came more than five minutes later when Patterson took a high-low pass from Stevenson and dunked.

Typifying a difficult half, UK sandwiched the sixth basket with ill-advised turnovers by Ramel Bradley. First, UK's point guard needlessly forced the action by spinning into a defender as he began driving to the basket. The charging call led Gillispie to put his hands to his face.

After Stevenson hit the pull-up in the lane, Bradley charged again. This time he threw out a hand to ward off a defender. At the next dead ball, Joe Crawford replaced Bradley.

Gillispie attributed the 10 turnovers from his point guards to "not thinking enough."

Noting an ill-advised halfcourt lob with the victory not yet secured, he said, "You can't just play, particularly at that position. You have to think."

Crawford, who was coming off a career-high 32-point night against Texas Southern, scored only one first-half basket. It was a fast-break layup and three-point play that put UK ahead 21-14 with 2:09 left.

UK claimed its first double-digit lead when Legion hit a pretty pull-up jumper on the baseline with 31 seconds left.

Gillispie shuffled the lineup to start the second half. Bradley, Crawford and Mark Coury stayed on the bench in favor of Stevenson, Porter and Harris.

Turnovers on the first two possessions meant no bolting from the gate.

The Cats' threatened the program's streak of 648 games with a three-point basket. Kentucky missed its first six attempts and didn't hit a three-pointer until Crawford made one with 15:17 left. UK did not make another three.