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SPOTLIGHT

Georgia Has Kentucky's Number

February 15, 2004|From staff and wire reports

Tubby Smith, coach of eighth-ranked Kentucky, didn't like what he saw from his Wildcats during a 74-68 Southeastern Conference loss to Georgia Saturday at Athens, Ga..

Smith said the Wildcats were scared and paid the price for their timid play against the aggressive but unranked Bulldogs, losing to them for the second time this season

Smith would say later that he was particularly upset with forwards Erik Daniels and Chuck Hayes, who combined for only one basket in the second half.

"Erik was running around scared to death," Smith said. "Then he's wondering why he didn't get the ball. We certainly knew what to expect. We didn't respond. I think it's mental. It's all mental. We can be tough in certain situations, but not enough against those guys [the Bulldogs]."

Asked about Georgia's style of play, Kentucky's Ravi Moss said, "They try to punk you out of what you're doing. Make us scared, soft and think before shooting, before we do anything. It reminds you of Dennis Rodman out there. They try to get under your skin."

Case in point: Georgia's Chris Daniels ran into Kentucky's Cliff Hawkins as the teams went to their benches at the game's first TV timeout. Hawkins elbowed Daniels, who said he was trying to "test them and see how they respond to it."

Dennis Felton, in his first season as Georgia coach, is 3-0 against Kentucky, which includes a victory over the Wildcats while at Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs are only 21-101 against Kentucky all-time, but have two season-series sweeps in the last three seasons.

"This is just a little part of what we're trying to do," said Georgia's Jonas Hayes, who had 19 points. "This is just a step in our ultimate goal of getting back to the NCAA tournament."

20-Win Salute

What's a Saluki? Twenty and two.

Southern Illinois reached the 20-victory mark for the third consecutive season with a 59-58 victory over Southwest Missouri State at Springfield, Mo. The No. 23 Salukis also are 14-0 in Missouri Valley Conference play.

Darren Brooks made the go-ahead three-point basket for the Salukis with a little more than two minutes to play and also rebounded his missed shot with 24 seconds remaining and passed to teammate Stetson Hairston, who was fouled.

Hairston made two free throws and the Salukis hung on for the victory.

"I wouldn't say we're lucky," said Brooks, who had 19 points. "I'd say we're a good team. We had to step up and make plays, and that's what happened."

Spiderman Returns

Michael Boynton Jr. was bitten by a spider early last week, which was no big deal until his right calf swelled and an abscess had to be surgically removed.

Boynton had difficulty walking and was uncertain whether he could play in No. 25 South Carolina's game against Vanderbilt at Columbia, S.C.

What's worse, he had to deal with all manner of good-natured insults from his teammates.

"They call me all kinds of things," said Boynton, who overcame the taunts and the injury to score 15 points -- on five three-point baskets -- during the Gamecocks' 82-75 victory over the Commodores.

The game was the first between the teams since a scuffle Jan. 28 between South Carolina's Renaldo Balkman and Vanderbilt's Corey Smith. They were ejected and later suspended.

Saturday, South Carolina fans booed Smith and cheered and chanted "airball, airball" when one of his shots failed to hit the rim or backboard.

No Day at the Beach

When Iowa State rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat No. 11 Texas, 78-77, Cyclone Coach Wayne Morgan made sure to credit the fans for their boisterous support during the Big 12 game at Ames, Iowa.

"Our crowd in our big games here -- Xavier, Iowa, this game, Missouri -- basically comes out of the stands and comes on the floor and breathes more energy into our guys," Morgan said of the figurative boost Iowa State receives from its home crowd.

In fact, a few hundred fans poured out of the stands to celebrate with the Cyclones after they improved to 14-7, 5-5 in conference.

"I've never had the feeling before," said Iowa State freshman Curtis Stinson, who had 18 points and 10 assists. "It felt real good."

Morgan didn't inspire that sort of home-court passion during six seasons at Long Beach State, winning a modest 53 of 91 games at the Pyramid. After quitting at Long Beach, Morgan was Larry Eustachy's assistant last season, then took over when Eustachy resigned after photos of him partying with Missouri students after a game at Columbia, Mo., were published.

The Cyclones are 13-1 at Hilton Coliseum this season and 134-30 there over the last 10 seasons.

Changing Places

The last time John Lucas III played in a Oklahoma State-Baylor game, he wore a Bears' uniform, scored 20 points and led an upset of the Cowboys.

Saturday, Lucas wore an Oklahoma State uniform and helped the No. 10 Cowboys to a 91-58 victory over Baylor in a Big 12 game at Stillwater, Okla., the Bears' worst loss of the season.

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