Kentucky wins rollicking battle with UW
November, 24, 2010
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com
LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The gym in Lahaina was rocking on Tuesday night.
A legion of raucous Kentucky and Washington fans. A tough, physical blood feud on the court. And a small 4.7 earthquake -- yes, earthquake -- that caused the baskets to briefly sway a bit during a timeout in the second half.
It all led up to the bleachers in this tiny gym literally shaking all night long. The frenzied atmosphere seemed to energize a young, up-and-coming Wildcat team as Kentucky defeated Washington 74-67 in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
"I felt the ground shaking and the rims were moving," UW guard Isaiah Thomas said about the brief earthquake. "The hoop was moving."
"Felt like the rim was moving anyway when we missed some shots," head coach Lorenzo Romar deadpanned in response to Thomas talking about the earthquake.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari laughed the whole thing off. "That's nothing."
Look, the game itself was ugly. Exciting, but ugly. It was physical. Tempers flared. But Kentucky pulled it out -- and you won't find anyone in UK's camp complaining about style points this early in the season.
AP Photo/Eugene TannerThe intensity and atmosphere inside the Lahaina Civic Center Tuesday night had a March-feel.
"There's nothing better to shoot 39 percent, have double the turnovers than assists and still win the game. It's lovely," Calipari said. "Guys fought like crazy. We had some great individual performances. But our team is not there yet."
Two freshmen were the key for Kentucky. Point guard Brandon Knight scored 24 points and forward Terrence Jones had 16 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks as the Wildcats advanced to a matchup with Connecticut for the Maui title on Wednesday (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET).
Knight got the team off to a blazing start early on, scoring 12 points in the first few minutes of the game to get the Wildcats up double-digits early. The Huskies clawed back and led for a time before Knight turned it on again down the stretch with a few key drives and one clutch jumper to push the Wildcats into the finals.
Jones didn't disappoint either. The former Washington commit was booed heartily by Husky fans, but shook off a poor shooting night with toughness and hustle. By the end of the game, the Big Blue fans were chanting "Terrence Jones" to the U-Dub section as Jones ripped down rebound after rebound and powered the ball to the basket.
"Terrence exploits the mismatches," Romar said of his former recruit. "It's difficult to contain him on drives. Terrence is a good basketball player. He got 17 rebounds. He found a way to contribute to his team."
On Monday, Calipari said he wanted to see some toughness from his heralded freshman. Well, Tuesday night he saw it. "He wasn't bad," Calipari said of Jones. "There were a bunch of big plays he made for us. He got a number of second-chance rebounds."
Washington's dream team -- the one that was averaging more than 106 ppg -- hit its first speed bump of the season. One night after making 17 3s and shooting a red-hot 65 percent from beyond the arc against Virginia, the Huskies came up cold in this one. The team made just three 3-pointers and shot just 38 percent from the field for the game.
So Tuesday's results set up a championship tilt between young Kentucky and unranked Connecticut. It's John Calipari versus Jim Calhoun in a matchup of coaching titans, but it's more than that. Neither team was favored to be in this position. Both had plenty of doubters when they headed to Hawaii. It's an unlikely final and one that is compelling in more ways than one.
Most expected Michigan State and Washington to play each other in the finals. Instead, they'll be playing for third place at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Not exactly what they had in mind.