Cats Roll Past College of Charleston
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Before practice this week, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith substituted pencils for basketballs as he subjected his players to a written test about defensive positioning.
``I aced it,'' point guard Ramel Bradley said.
Judging by Kentucky's performance Tuesday night, the whole team did.
The Wildcats got rid of most of the positioning problems that plagued them during the Maui Invitational with a defensive-heavy 77-61 victory over College of Charleston.
Guard Joe Crawford said if coach decides to stress something, it tends to resonate - and stopping dribble penetration was on the menu this week.
``Whether he's yelling or whatever it is, he always finds a way to get our attention,'' Crawford said.
Ironically, it was a defensive specialist who provided the offensive spark.
Freshman Perry Stevenson came off the bench for the first time with a career-high 14 points. Although he missed his three free-throw attempts, he connected on all seven shots from the field.
``He's able to get use of his size when he jumps up that high,'' center Jared Carter said of Stevenson. ``He's underweight for a post player, but that will come.''
Randolph Morris led the Wildcats with 17 points and eight rebounds, but it was Stevenson who nailed the early shots with the game on the line.
The Wildcats (4-2), who dropped out of the Top 25 this week after losses in Maui against now-No. 1 UCLA and Memphis, face another steep challenge Saturday. They'll head to North Carolina in a battle of the nation's all-time winningest programs.
Smith stressed defense so much in practice this week, he acknowledged the offense may have struggled a little out of the gate as a result.
The Wildcats missed their first nine shots and didn't hit a field goal until more than six minutes had passed.
The poor shooting sparked angry looks followed by massive substitutions from Smith. He briefly yanked all five starters and replaced them with four freshmen and senior center Lukasz Obrzut.
``After we got it moving, everybody was rotating, talking,'' Morris said. ``We had fewer lapses.''
That lineup didn't fare much better at first, but Stevenson - whose poor performance in Maui cost him the starting job to Sheray Thomas - ignited the offense soon. In previous games, it was Stevenson's shot blocking capabilities that provided the spark, but this time it was his shot.
His dunk pulled the Wildcats to within three points midway through the first half and began a 17-0 run that buried the Cougars (3-3).
Seconds later, Stevenson showed off a new signature move - an under-the-basket hook flip that gave the Wildcats their first lead at 12-11. He did it again the next time down, drawing the foul - albeit missing the free throw - in the process.
Although the Wildcats shot only 37 percent in the first half, the Cougars were worse. They were only 1-of-11 from 3-point range and didn't score for 7 1/2 minutes as Kentucky built its lead.
College of Charleston also didn't get a single first-half free-throw attempt because Kentucky stayed out of foul trouble, committing only three in the half and none in the first 16 minutes. The Wildcats led 27-15 at halftime.
Charleston's star guard Dontaye Draper had only two points in the first half but found his shot in the second, leading the Cougars with 15 points. By then it was too late.
Joe Crawford's 3-pointer with 10 minutes left stretched Kentucky's lead to 20 points and extended the Wildcats' streak to 616 games with a long-range bucket. Only UNLV and Vanderbilt have longer streaks. Crawford finished with 15 points.
Freshman Mark Coury got his first four points of the season for Kentucky, scoring the last two baskets in the final minute.