LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Coaches often like to point out that players make the biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons.
Consider Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels poster boys for that notion.
Fitch poured in 31 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out six assists Saturday in leading his team to a 109-92 victory in Kentucky's annual Blue-White game at Memorial Coliseum.
An estimated crowd of 3,850 rose to their feet and showered the sophomore guard from Macon, Ga., with a standing ovation after a brilliant sequence of plays late in the second half, highlighted by an acrobatic, left-handed putback dunk and consecutive 3-pointers.
"I thought Gerald played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He made a lot of shots... Obviously, he scored 31 points, but what I liked about it was he had 14 rebounds at his size. That takes heart. That's the thing that you can't teach or coach."
Fitch responded to postgame questions about his performance with an "aw shucks" demeanor typical of his workmanlike attitude.
"I don't really think I was in the zone or anything," he said. "I was feeling pretty good today. I made some shots early and just let it come to me.
"With so much talent, every day with have to prove ourselves. Coach said to treat this like a practice, and that's what I did."
And, oh by the way, Daniels wasn't too bad himself. The sophomore forward from Cincinnati also flirted with a triple-double, recording 16 points, eight rebounds and a game-high seven assists for the winning Blue squad.
If not for the performance by Fitch, he would have been the fans' main talking point.
"Erik, I thought, played unbelievably today," Smith said. "If I had to pick who gave us the most on the court, I'd have to pick Erik for the balance and consistency. He's such an unorthodox, tricky player. He's got all the ball fakes and head fakes to score, and he always finds people open. He's got great vision.
"Gerald and Erik demonstrate the style of play that I like to coach: team play, playing aggressive defensive, especially, because we've got guys who can score points."
Their efforts overshadowed typically nice performances by UK's expected stars, Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans, who tossed in 20 and 25 points, respectively. It also further emphasized what many fans are already buzzing about these Cats: this may be the deepest and most talented arsenal of players since the 1996 national championship squad.
"I thought we had a good Blue-White game," Smith said. "As you can see, I'm pretty excited about this group. And you can see why I'm excited about them.
"We expect to be the best team possible. Nobody's expectations will be higher than ours. But we know it takes a lot of work and sacrifice."
Fitch, Daniels and Prince formed the core of the Blue squad. The winners also got 16 points from both point guard J.P. Blevins and center Marquis Estill, and five points each from wings Cory Sears and Josh Carrier.
The White squad was led by Bogans, a junior guard, with 25 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Jules Camara, back from a one-year suspsension for violating the school's student-athlete alcohol policy, looked sharp in going 8-of-14 from the floor for 16 points. The 7-footer from Senegal also displayed his defensive prowess in blocking three shots.
Rounding out the White squad were: freshman forward Chuck Hayes (15 points, 6 rebounds); junior center Marvin Stone (14 points; 6-of-7 FG, 7 rebounds); sophomore point guard Cliff Hawkins (10 points, 6 assists); freshman guard Rashaad Carruth (9 points, 3 assists); and sophomore guard Matt Heissenbuttel (3 points).
"We had good balance, although the White team fell behind and didn't respond with the defensive aggression that I thought they needed to respond with. They tried to get it back with offense and had some breakdowns defensively," Smith said.
Other notes from the Kentucky coach:
n "For the most part, we made free throws (23 of 30; 77 percent). That was something we needed to improve on."
n "I thought Marvin (Stone) did a great job shooting the ball, doing some intelligent things."
n "Our freshmen, we need to get them more aggressive. Josh (Carrier) shot the ball well when he had the opportunity. Chuck (Hayes) did a good job. Rashaad (Carruth) struggled a little from outside. We're trying to get him to understand you have to play both ends of the court. Even when you're not playing well offensively, you can still do it at the defensive end."
n "There's competition at every position," Smith said when asked if the scrimmage was a representation of what he'd been seeing in daily practice workouts. "That's been healthy for us. Guys are getting better."
n On possible starters: "I'm not even worried about that. That's the last thing I'm concerned about. The way I look at it, I want guys executing and doing the fundamental things. All that will come in time. When we get everybody on the same page and executing together, it won't matter who you put out there."
n On the defense: "It wasn't very good... But that's going to happen at this time of year. It takes time. They'll find out they'll get playing time based on what kind of defense they played."