Depth of Kentucky roster proves too much for Notre Dame
By: KERRY SMITH
In the end, the Wildcats were just too deep for the Irish. Downing Notre Dame 72-65 at the Joyce Center Saturday afternoon, the No. 12 Wildcats played on rested legs for most of the game, while the unranked Irish struggled to keep up.
"Depth is a plus for them," senior forward David Graves said. "They know their roles. They will rotate in five guys just as good as the five starters."
Nine Kentucky players logged double-digit minutes on the court, as guard Keith Bogans led the squad with a game- and season-high 23 points. No other Kentucky player scored more than nine.
Bogans, who had been hurting all season, showed no sign of struggle, shooting 8-12 overall and 5-8 from behind the arc.
"He's the type of player that can just pull games like this," Irish forward David Graves said. "That's why they're so good. Someone unexpected can just pull up with a 20-point night."
But as usual this season, the Irish did not let their opponent go home with an easy win. Paced by guard Matt Carroll's deadly first-half shooting behind the arc, the Irish kept the score close.
Midway through the first half, Carroll took control of the offense, scoring 13-straight Irish points. The junior hit a jumper in the lane to give the Irish a one-point 12-11 lead and then followed through with two 3-pointers to give the Irish their largest lead of the game, 18-14.
But the Wildcats soon stiffened their defense on Carroll, as he finished the game with only five more points.
"His arm was probably tired," Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith joked about Carroll's streaky shooting.
But in reality, the Wildcat defense honed in on their biggest threat. Wildcat defenders kept a close eye on Carroll the rest of the night.
"They didn't hop off at all," Carroll said.
With the help of Carroll's first-half performance, the Irish had a chance to head into halftime with some momentum, but failed to capitalize on key opportunities.
Trailing by three with less than two minutes to play, reserve Irish forward Jordan Cornette scored and drew a foul, but failed to convert on the free throw attempt to bring the Notre Dame within one instead of a tie. The Wildcats then scored on two consecutive plays with a quick fast break and a midcourt steal, increasing their lead to five with less than a minute left. A Tayshaun Prince 3-pointer after a Humphrey lay-up sent the Wildcats to the locker room with a six point 41-35 edge.
"We missed a free throw and then they picked our pockets at half court," Irish head coach Mike Brey said. "It was deflating."
The Irish were unable to come up with a lead in the second half. Humphrey struggled under the stiff defense of Wildcat center Jules Camara and forward Marquis Estill, scoring under his average with 14 points.
"I felt like every time I got the ball, there were two or three guys on me," Humphrey said. "But that's OK. When they do that, it gives my guys some looks and I can keep passing it."
But no one on the Irish squad could come up with any consistent points.
Freshman point guard Chris Thomas continued to struggle, scoring 13 and going 2-11 from 3-point range.
"It's been tough since the Big East started," Thomas said. "But good shooters always go through streaks like this."
The home loss drops the Irish to 12-5 on the season. But despite five notches in the loss column, Brey's squad has only lost by a combined total of 18 points. Three of those have come at the hands of ranked teams.
The Irish do not have any time to mull over Saturday's loss, as they play host to conference rival Georgetown tonight at 7 p.m. at the Joyce Center.
"We don't have any time to feel sorry," Brey said. "We have Georgetown coming in here on Monday and we need to be ready."
The Hoyas are 11-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big East, but have dropped four games in their last six outings. The squad is coming off a one-point home loss to Pittsburgh, a team that Notre Dame defeated last weekend.
Tonight's game will be the first of two regular-season meetings for the team.
All Sports Stories for Monday, January 21, 2002