'Cats finally make it happen Hogs stay strong against Tigers


Published: Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Kentucky's Rajon Rondo puts up the game winning shot over South Carolina's Tarence Kinsey during the Wildcats' 80-78 win at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

The Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky. - On a day commemorating one of Kentucky's greatest teams, it took a last-second shot to avoid a woeful first.
Never had the Wildcats lost three consecutive home games in the Southeastern Conference. Thanks to Rajon Rondo's second buzzer-beater in three weeks, they still haven't.
The sophomore guard, who came into the game a 29 percent shooter from beyond the arc, hit one when it mattered, lifting Kentucky to an 80-78 victory Saturday over South Carolina.
"I want the ball in my hands at the end of the game," Rondo said. "I want to make something happen."
Although the distance the shot traveled may have been a surprise, the person who took it was not. In an eerily similar game-winner Jan. 3, Rondo's last-second, fade-away jumper beat Central Florida.
After that game, he claimed he'd never made such a shot before - even in high school. He can't claim that anymore.
With the victory, Kentucky (12-6, 2-2 SEC) avoided a brush with unwanted history in the presence of some of "Rupp's Runts," the national runners-up in 1965-66. Not since the 1966-67 season, the year after the Runts, had Kentucky lost three straight home games.
Four of five starters from that team were present for halftime honors, except Pat Riley, now the Miami Heat coach, who had planned to attend but canceled.
Riley was there in spirit, though - even for South Carolina coach Dave Odom as he pondered Rondo's shot.
"It was no secret who was going to get the ball, unless Pat Riley showed up," Odom said.
The team, coached by the late Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, plays the role of villain in the new film "Glory Road," which is about that season's champions, Texas Western, which was the first to start an all-black lineup in the title game.
Antoine Tisby's two free-throws gave South Carolina (10-8, 1-4) a 78-77 lead with 10 seconds left. Tisby went to the line amid vocal protests from Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and the Rupp Arena crowd, who argued that Tisby traveled.
Instead, the foul was called on center Randolph Morris - his fifth, which ousted him from the game.
Before the free throws, Kentucky had pulled ahead on a 3-pointer that Odom joked Patrick Sparks hit from the Rupp museum. Sparks' heel was on the Kentucky "K" at half court when he launched it, a 29-footer officially.
"Maybe it was a little deep, but I knocked it down," Sparks said.
It was one of four 3-pointers for the senior guard, who had 14 points - his highest total since scoring 25 on Nov. 22 against West Virginia.
Joe Crawford led the Wildcats with 15 points, Bobby Perry had 13 and Morris added 12. Tarence Kinsey's 21 points led the Gamecocks.
South Carolina went on a 15-0 run early in the second half to lead 58-46, but the Wildcats rediscovered their touch and scored 20 of the next 24 points.
"Basketball is a game of runs," Kinsey said. "Everybody can easily run off 10 or 12 points real quick. It is just how we respond when they start going on a run."
The Kentucky run came largely without Morris, who picked up his fourth foul with 11:30 left and was held out of most of the rest of the game.
For the first time in several games, Kentucky shot well out of the gate, but so did South Carolina. The teams combined for eight 3-pointers in the first eight minutes and 12 in the half, including three each by Kentucky's Sparks and Carolina's Dwayne Day, who had 18 points and tied a career-high with four total 3-pointers.
Kentucky made 56 percent of its shots from the field in the game, and South Carolina hit 52 percent. The Gamecocks won the rebounding battle, 31-25.
"We pulled one out today," Smith said. "It was a really tough game. We dug ourselves a hole, but I have to give our kids a lot of credit when we were down 10 or 12 points."
It was a seesaw battle most of the first half, and the longest run was South Carolina's six consecutive points in the final two minutes. Sparks immediately answered that with a 3-pointer to give Kentucky a 40-38 lead at halftime.
Although the Wildcats shot well, the mental lapses that plagued them in recent losses to Kansas, Vanderbilt and Alabama dogged them again on occasion. In consecutive possessions in the first half, the team was called for over and back, then Rondo threw the ball out of bounds when Sparks was looking the other way.
Ahead of Tuesday's victory at Georgia, Smith enlisted an assistant professor in sports leadership to try to help pull the team out of its slump.
But guard Ravi Moss said there is no cure like victory - even a close one.
"A win like this helps a lot, especially since we came from behind," Moss said. "It really helps us maintain our confidence."
Arkansas 68, Auburn 52 AUBURN, Ala - Ronnie Brewer and Arkansas made sure they didn't let this one slip away.
Brewer scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and the Razorbacks didn't flinch when a big lead mostly dwindled away in a 68-52 victory over Auburn on Saturday.
Arkansas (13-5, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) scored 11 consecutive points from the free throw line after Auburn whittled a 16-point deficit down to 52-46 midway through the second half.
It wasn't to be a repeat of Wednesday night's Alabama game, when Arkansas blew a 13-point lead in the second half and lost in overtime.
"It's just one of those games that it's hard to get out of your mind," Razorbacks coach Stan Heath said. "More importantly, for 40 minutes we were focused on Auburn and we didn't worry about that."
Brewer & Co. frequently drove to the basket and drew fouls from Auburn (8-7, 0-4) down the stretch and held the Tigers without a point for the final six minutes. Auburn didn't make a basket over the last 7:20.
Brewer started the surge by making 3-of-4 free throws after Tigers coach Jeff Lebo was whistled for a technical protesting a foul call with 9:27 left.
Auburn had briefly rebounded from a 52-36 deficit, capping a 10-0 run with a long jumper by Quantez Robertson. The Tigers couldn't keep it up.
"They went down and got a couple of easy baskets and the next thing we knew, it was too late to get back in the game," Auburn's Ronny LeMelle said.
Jonathon Modica had 17 points for Arkansas while Charles Thomas had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Brewer, the SEC's leading scorer, was scoreless for nearly 15 minutes to start the game.
The trio were a combined 21-of-25 from the line.
"We were just trying to take it to them and make them commit fouls," Brewer said.
LeMelle led Auburn with 16 points but made only 2-of-10 3-pointers. Rasheem Barrett added 12 points. Joey Cameron had a career-high 13 rebounds while Robertson had nine points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Tigers committed 23 turnovers and went cold in the second half, shooting just 30 percent.
"Turnovers killed us," Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said. "It's just very frustrating as a coach. We've stressed it, we've explained it, we've showed it. We have a slim margin for error and when we turn the ball over 23 times, you're not going to beat many people."
Auburn tied the game by scoring the first four points after halftime, but Brewer and Modica fueled a 19-3 run capped by Modica's jumper.
Auburn missed seven consecutive shots during the sequence.
"We really wanted to focus on just executing on defense and really not backing down," Thomas said.
Then LeMelle forced a turnover off an inbounds pass to set up Barrett's basket inside and hit a layup and 3-pointer to bring the Tigers back.
That's when the Razorbacks began a series of trips to the line, where they made 21 of 25 attempts for the game. Auburn starter Frank Tolbert fouled out midway through the second half.
"We let them get back in the game a little bit, but I think we grew up because we stretched the lead right back out," Thomas said.
The Razorbacks had scored the final six points of the first half for a 33-29 lead, forcing 15 turnovers before halftime while committing 12. Post starters Darian Townes and Steven Hill combined for a quiet eight points and six rebounds against an undersized Auburn team with Heath employing a smaller lineup for much of the game.
The Razorbacks still attempted only 13 3-pointers after tossing up 27 - and making just eight - against Alabama. They had only seven second-half turnovers.
"We cut down those turnovers from the first half," Heath said. "Our second-half push was exactly what we needed."
The Tigers held a "Legends Game" for former players before the game, celebrating their 100th year of basketball.
  • LSU 68, ALABAMA 57 Tasmin Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas ignited a second-half run that led LSU at home.
    The Tigers, who had built an eight-point second half lead, had fallen behind by one point on a basket by Jermareo Davidson with 13:02 remaining. A three-point play by Tasmin Mitchell put LSU ahead 44-42 and started a 21-4 Tigers spurt.
    Tasmin Mitchell and Thomas each scored six points during this stretch. Following Tasmin Mitchell's three-point play, Thomas made a field goal and two foul shots to give LSU (12-5, 4-0) a 48-42 advantage.
    After Richard Hendrix scored for Alabama (10-7, 3-2), the Tigers scored the next nine points.
  • VANDERBILT 80, MISSISSIPPI ST. 52 Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings wasn't sure how his team would respond after blowing a 10-point lead in Wednesday's overtime loss to South Carolina.
    But he was pleased with the Commodore's answer at home as DeMarre Carroll tied a career high with 18 points off the bench.
    The Commodores (12-4, 3-2) jumped out to a 46-24 lead before halftime, shot 58 percent and generally controlled play at both ends of the floor.
    "I was very pleased to see our guys bounce back today with the effort and energy, especially with how they played with in the first half," Stallings said. "It was one of those games where anything can happen after the devastation we felt on Wednesday night. A team with less character would not show up to play."
    Shan Foster and Derrick Byars scored 13 each, Dan Cage added 11 and Mario Moore scored 10 points and had four assists.
    "Everybody knows we can't have any more slip-ups," Carroll said.
    Charles Rhodes scored 19 points to lead Mississippi St. (11-7, 1-4).
  • GEORGIA 72, MISSISSIPPI 65: One look at the Mississippi roster confirmed for Georgia coach Dennis Felton what he already had heard from others:
    "They've got as many wide bodies as anybody in the country," Felton said. "Everybody really talked about their ability to rebound and wear you down."
    Felton's response was to direct his team, best known for its perimeter play, to pass inside, and a more-balanced Georgia attack won at home.
    Georgia ended the Rebels' seven-game winning streak by claiming a 40-31 advantage in rebounds and a decisive 29-7 edge in points off turnovers.
    "We just wanted to work on playing inside more," said Georgia center Dave Bliss, who set a season high with 10 points. "You can get a lot more easy shots that way."
    Mike Mercer scored five points in the final minute and led Georgia with 14 points.
    After Ole Miss cut Georgia's lead to four points at 64-60, Mercer converted a three-point play with 51 seconds left. Mercer added a layup with 36 seconds left for a 69-60 lead.
    Sundiata Gaines added 12 points with seven rebounds and four steals for Georgia (12-6, 2-3).
    Ole Miss (13-4, 3-1) was denied its first 4-0 start in conference games since the 1936-37 season.
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