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Archive for Sunday, March 18, 2007

Commentary: Pregame gaffe UK’s worst mistake

March 18, 2007

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— The key was starting Dwight Perry.

A mistake, you say? A bonehead move, you say, the fact that somehow Kentucky marked the wrong Perry in the pregame scorebook, thus the barely used - three appearances that failed to total a minute - walk-on Dwight Perry was forced to start in place of regular starter Bobby Perry, forced to foul as soon as the opening tip was completed just so Bobby Perry could get in the game.

How many times do you see that, much less in an NCAA Tournament game?

Thing was the mistake served a vital purpose. It got what turned out to be UK's biggest mistake of the night out of the way at the start.

After that, no more brain cramps for the Cats.

Just focus.

Lots and lots of focus.

"We're just happy," coach Tubby Smith said, "to come in and put together a complete game."

A winning game, Kentucky's seventh consecutive first-round NCAA Tournament victory as the Cats knocked off Villanova, 67-58, in a West Regional game at the United Center to earn a Sunday date with No. 1 seed Kansas.

Smith's team did so by concentrating on taking prime advantage of its prime advantage, center Randolph Morris in the post. The junior center, at 6-foot-11, three inches taller than the tallest Villanova post man, scored 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots.

"He's bigger than anyone else on the court," Smith said.

The night started with a big gaffe. UK assistant coach David Hobbs inadvertently checked the name of Dwight Perry as a starter instead of normal starter Bobby Perry. Once the signed lineup card was finished by the official scorer, it could not be redone. So Dwight started. Bobby began the game at the scorer's table. Dwight fouled immediately after the tip. Bobby entered the game.

"We've got so many Perrys on the team, Dwight Perry, Bobby Perry, Perry Stevenson," Smith said. "You look at the scorebook, you couldn't even read it. But I guess a rule is a rule is a rule."

If the Cats blew that rule, they adhered to all others. On offense, they worked the ball time and again to Morris. The center got to the line for 15 free throws, his second highest total of the year.

On defense, Kentucky threw enough help at Villanova's Scottie Reynolds to limit the 'Nova point guard to one field goal in the second half after Reynolds had scored 14 points in the first half.

Now Kentucky's focus turns to Kansas, the same Jayhawks juggernaut that crushed the Cats, 73-56, last year in Lawrence. The same, only better. Bill Self's team was nothing short of awesome in drilling poor Niagara, 107-67, in Friday night's first game.

"They just handled us at Allen Fieldhouse," Smith said. "They clobbered us pretty bad. We had no chance. Watching them this year, their speed and athleticism stands out, and we saw that first-hand last year. They've just built on that."

Maybe Kentucky can build on what it did Friday night.

Why, with 7:33 left, and UK up by seven, the Cats worked the ball inside to Morris for what seemed like the zillionth time. The center, caught, pivoted, and drew another foul.

Standing in front of his bench, Villanova coach Jay Wright turned his back on the floor in disgust and stuck out his hands to his assistants as if to say, "What are you gonna do?"

On this night, Kentucky had all the answers.

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