A win is a win, right? At least that is how the old saying goes. And when is a 20-point win not a great thing? Certainly by the tone of coach Tubby Smith's post-game press conference, the former High Point graduate seemed anything but pleased.
Kentucky's offense stalled in the first half and High Point took advantage, leading briefly before heading to the locker room down just 34-30. But the Wildcats went on a 14-7 run at the start of the second half to build a double digit cushion and then steadily increased its lead the rest of the way, ending with a 75-55 win.
"High Point's coach Lundy had his team ready to play, "coach Smith said, "The first half was a long one for us. We really stuggled rebounding the ball. We were doing nothing on defense. Their guards were going by us like we weren't there."
The Kentucky Wildcats jumped out to an early lead but High Point, behind a career night by 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Arizona Reid (29 points, 16 rebounds), would not go away, closing in on the Cats toward the eight minute mark of the first half and actually taking the lead at 26-24 at the 6:57 mark. That's when an unlikely hero, Brandon Stockton, emerged from the bench and sparked a mini-surge that helped give Kentucky a 4-point half time lead. First, Stockton dished to Lukasz Obrzut for a score that tied the game. Stockton then stole the ball twice and dished to Rondo for 2 additional scores to put the Cats up 32-26.
"Brandon really did the job for us tonight," Smith said, "he took good shots, he handled the ball well and he passed well. He have us poise and stability tonight. He knows our system extremely well and does not try to do too much, He is playing well."
The Cats played better in the second half, perhaps motivated by a frank locker room discussion by coach Smith. The Cats spread the scoring around early. Bobby Perry, Rondo, Patrick Sparks and forward Sheray Thomas all scored early to widen the lead to 43-33 for Kentucky.
Still disappointed with the Wildcats' overall play, coach Tubby Smith sent a strong message to his team by inserting rarely-used Preston LeMaster into the lineup alongside Stockton and Ramel Bradley with the Cats leading just 48-39. Stockton did not disappoint, hitting a three pointer at the 12:30 mark. Bradley responded by hitting a pair of free throws and nailing a jumper. Stockton would score again and the Cats would expand their lead to 57-41.
Obrzut finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds, a solid night for Obrzut, "Woo did well for us. He is catching the ball closer to the basket and finishing. We have been working on that. "We need to see more of this. He needs to be consistent. One night does not make a career. He got the ball tonight and took it right up. He keeps doing that and he will be fine."
Rajon Rondo had yet another solid double-double night for Kentucky, scoring 14 points and hauling in another 10 rebounds, "He had an all around great game," Smith said, "I can't expect those kind of rebounding numbers every night but when it happens, it's a real plus for us." Ramel Bradley added 14 points and 3 assists for Kentucky.
Kentucky shot 49.2% from the field. High Point shot 43% from the field in the first half, but the Wildcats defense tightened up and the Panthers shot just 28% FG in the second half, ending with a total of 35% for the game.