LEMOND: Sparks' smiles, shots stop slide

Patrick Sparks was smiling. Something so simple, but something that had been missing for weeks on the UK basketball team -some smiles. None of the smiles were bigger that Sparks'.

"It's great," Sparks said after his Kentucky Wildcats beat Georgia 69-55. "I'm all about winning, and when my team wins, I'm happy. We had a little slide there, but we're going to just take it one game at a time. We got a big win, and everybody played well."

Another reason Sparks was smiling was because he played his best basketball game in a long time. He found his shooting eye scoring all 12 of his points against Georgia in the second half. He hit 2 of 3 from 3-point land. It was the first game he hit more than one 3-pointer in a game since the Georgia State game, and his 12 points were the most since he scored 13 against High Point. He also added six assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes against the Bulldogs.

"It felt good for a lot of reasons," he said. "All of my teammates were over there cheering me on. That's what it's all about. It's a team game, and everybody got everybody fired up. You love games like this where everybody is playing for each other."

Fellow guard Ramel Bradley also credits a team meeting the night before the Georgia game for helping Sparks break out his recent shooting slump.

Bradley said, "We had a meeting, and Pat talked to us and said he needed us to encourage him a little big more. That's what we did. He was knocking down shots, and we're all happy for him."

Sparks added, "We've had our fair share of meetings and that was one of our big issues we've had this year. I think if we continue to play like we did (against Georgia), we're going to do a lot of good things."

The win over Georgia snapped the Cats first three game losing streak in over six years. The win also came at a time when some national analysts were projecting Kentucky not to make the NCAA tournament field. Sparks said, "We just played for each other out there. If we can do that, we'll go a long way."

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