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Miller Time
Freshman Guard's Three-Pointers Help 'Cats Shut Down Texas Tech 66-60
By Nick Nicholas
Draw for your guns, mister! .
Shut out against Austin Peay, Derrick Miller reloaded and pulled his trigger finger four times against Texas Tech, a scrappy bunch of cow pokes from Southwest Conference territory. The results? A perfect night for this Wildcat wrangler whose play was greatly appreciated by the crowd on hand at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky notched its second win of the season by defeating the Red Raiders 66-60 last Tuesday evening (Dec. 2) at Rupp Arena.
Miller scored 10 points on four field goals, including two three-pointers in the second half. The 6-foot-6 freshman's first connection from three-point land was a big. big play.
The hometown boys held a four-point cushion (47-43). But quicker than you could say Get out of town before sundown. Miller connected beyond 19' 9", pushing UK's lead to 50-43 with 7:23 remaining.
His second three-point pop came from Main Street range, nearly a 25-footer. Hey Derrick, move in a little. There isn't a four-pointer in this league. Not yet anyway. UK now led 56-47 with 5:31 left.
Miller's bonus buckets rekindled some of the fire which fueled the Wildcats to a 15-4 lead early in the first half.
"That was a big basket right there." said Gerald Myers in reference to Miller's first bomb. "We had a freshman in there at the time on him. He was sitting back inside and they (Kentucky) set him up for a little pick and he (Miller) got open on the shot.
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It was a big shot."
During his postgame press conference, Eddie Sutton, when told of the latter statement by his longtime friend, smiled and said, "I thought it was the turning point. If Gerald said it I'll agree."
Following Miller's three-pointer, the closest Texas Tech got was three points (63-60)
with 15 seconds left.
"When you're out there you're not conscious, at least I'm not, of the (three-point) line," Miller said. "I had the shot so I took it. It felt good."
"I told the squad yesterday (Monday) that we were going to make darn sure that whoever has the hot hand would be getting the ball," Sutton said.
While Miller contributed his fair share, guard Ed Davender carried a big load of UK's offensive production. For the second straight game Davender was the game's leading scorer. He tallied 23 points in 31 minutes of action (seven of ten from the field and nine of 10 free throws). Davender's average after two games is 21.5 ppg (43 points).
A more-relaxed Irv Thomas also added offensive punch, compiling 11 points in a winning effort.
Texas Tech, shot down for the initial time this season, was led by sophomore Sean Gay's 18 points.
Kentucky's Inside Improved But Still Needs Help
Sutton has been sending smoke signals for inside help ever since Winston Bennett and Cedric Jenkins suffered leg injuries. It's apparent Kentucky needs Cedric Jenkins and Mike Scott to come to the rescue if this season is to be continued past SEC Tournament time.
One thing is for sure. . .Thomas, Richard Madison and Rob Lock are getting experience around the paint area. Against Texas Tech, UK's inside game was effective at times. The three combined for 23 points and 12 rebounds. All three Wildcats shot 50 percent or better from the field.
On the defensive end of the court, UK's inside game held its own, too. Against a much taller unit which included 7-footer Kent Wojcieschoski, UK's big men, especially Madison, didn't run away and hide. Both Wojcieschoski and Dewayne Chism (6-7 for-ward) received early exits. On the other hand. Lock fouled out with 1:47 remaining while Thomas finished the night with four infractions. Overall, Tech outrebounded Kentucky 25 to 21.
Thomas' short banker initiated the scoring for second half play, giving the Wildcats a 34-22 at the 19:17 mark. However, some nifty defense by Texas Tech and not-so nifty offense by the 'Cats plugged the cylinder at UK's end of the court. Not until 15:24 did UK score its 35th point of the evening. Two charity tosses by Davender widened the lead, 36-26. And not until 12:33 did the Wildcats score a field goal, a la Davender's 15-footer.
Kentucky was fortunate as the Red Raiders failed to take advantage of the opportunity. During the first 7:27 of the second stanza Tech could only muster 11 points of its own.
Like a tedious game of chess, neither Kentucky nor Texas Tech wanted to make a move. After Davender's basket gave UK a 39-33 lead midway through the half, Gay decided to make a few moves on his own. His eight- and 14-footers, sandwiched around a one-and-one front end miss by Davender, pulled Tech within two points, 39-37.
An 8-4 run by the Wildcats, meanwhile, kept the Red Raiders in check. An assist from freshman Rex Chapman sparked the rally as his fast-break connection hit a trailing Davender. The layup off a two-on-one advantage gave UK a 41-37 lead with 10:18 to play.
Texas Tech still had its chances until. . .
. . .Enter Miller with 9:37 left and Kentucky grasping to a 43-39 lead. It was time for this gang from Texas to mosey on along and head back to Lubbock.
'Cats Put Man-To-Man Defense In Overdrive
"Our ballclub is just not ready, I guess, to play this early against a good defensive team on the road," Myers said.
First half statistics confer that Kentucky played excellent man-to-man defense in the first 20 minutes. Tech turned the ball over 14 times. Kentucky had 27 shots on goal while Tech got 17. Combined Red Raider guards Gay, Wendell Owens and Mike Nelson were guilty of eight miscues as the visitors found themselves down by 10 at halftime.
"They have very quick guards and did a good job defensively," Myers continued. "That was the difference in the game."
Sutton was quick to note the importance of senior James Blackmon on this evening. In UK's opener Blackmon tallied only four points while playing 13 minutes. Though he scored just six points, Blackmon's aggressive-style at the defensive end helped keep the opponents at bay. He also was credited with three boards, three assists, one steal and only one turnover in 34 minutes.
"He didn't play very well the other night," said Sutton, with Blackmon and Miller alongside the UK coach during postgame interviews. "But we had a do-better talk, didn't we?" Blackmon shook his head in agreement.
"I thought he played super tonight. I thought he played an outstanding basketball game."
Kentucky got a quick jump on its opponent, outscoring Tech 15 to 4 after winning the tip. Tech didn't retreat. In fact the boys from Texas pulled to within three (15-12) when Chism hit from 10 feet over Thomas.
The lead was even cut to two, 16-14. This came about when Nelson was left open from 17 feet. Chapman tried to pick Nelson's pocket. The 6-3 senior took advantage of the youngster's mistake and drilled the attempt. Texas Tech, however, soon lost its momentum. Kentucky ran off eight consecutive
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