No. 4 Kentucky 74, Tulsa 53
Dec. 21, 1997
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ After getting outplayed in the first half, No. 4 Kentucky turned on its press to erase Tulsa's hopes of pulling an upset.
Nazr Mohammed scored four of his 17 points during a 17-0 run in the second half that enabled the Wildcats to pull away to a 74-53 victory Saturday night.
``We picked up the intensity there in the second half,'' said Kentucky's Tubby Smith, who had his first head coaching position at Tulsa from 1991-95. ``We made some adjustments in our press. It was important at that time to get them fatigued and that took its toll.''
Smith, who coached at Georgia for two seasons after leaving Tulsa, said it wasn't easy going against the Golden Hurricane.
``It was tough,'' he said. ``I would look down the bench and realize I like everyone on the other team. You have to be careful and slip and lose your focus and concentration. They were very good to me at Tulsa.''
Heshimu Evans started Kentucky's spurt with a free throw to tie the game at 33 with 16:22 left. Tulsa (7-3) then turned the ball over four consecutive times and Kentucky (9-1) got Evans' two free throws, Allen Edwards' breakaway dunk, and Mohammed's two free throws and a layup to go up 41-33.
``It's always the defense that picks you up,'' Edwards said. ``It gets you breakaway baskets, dunks and that kind of stuff.''
Saul Smith added a driving layup and free throw, Cameron Mills hit a 3-pointer and Jeff Sheppard scored on a fast-break layup to give Kentucky a 49-33 lead before Michael Ruffin ended Tulsa's scoring drought with two free throws with 11:56 to go.
``When they were in their run, we got very passive,'' said Tulsa Jonnie Gendron, who equaled a career-high 17 points. ``We weren't aggressive at all, and when we got passive, we made even more mistakes.''
Tulsa got no closer than 13 points the remainder of the game, the last time at 54-41 on Jonnie Gendron's 3 at 9:29. Kentucky's largest lead was 73-45 on Edwards' 3 with 3:33 left.
``I think we just came out with more anger and more intensity in the second half,'' Edwards said. ``Tulsa is a good team and maybe we didn't think that before the game.''
Kentucky scored 24 points off Tulsa's 21 turnovers in winning its seventh straight game.
``We didn't score against their press,'' Tulsa coach Bill Self said. ``They got much more offense out of their press than we did against it. We got on our heels and then the dam broke. The press had a big impact and we couldn't score.''
Sheppard finished with 11 points and Wayne Turner added 10 as Kentucky shot 52 percent (26-of-50) from the field.
Tulsa shot a season-low 32.7 percent (18-of-55).
Kentucky took a 9-4 lead over the first four minutes but Tulsa went on a 9-2 run behind Eric Coley's two baskets off turnovers to go up 13-11.
Tulsa then went on a 7-0 spurt, leading 23-15 on Ruffin's two free throws at 7:23. Kentucky rallied to tie the game at 25 on Turner's driving layup, but Tulsa held on for a 29-28 halftime lead.