Huskies succumb down the stretch

LAHAINA, Maui - An earthquake in south Maui registered 4.7 on the richter scale just about the same time Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar had an explosion of his own. A technical foul called on UW's Venoy Overton helped turn the tide for Kentucky and the Wildcats were able to pull away 74-67 in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center.

With the win, Kentucky moves to the championship game, where they will face Connecticut Wednesday for the title. Washington moves to a consolation final with Michigan State, the game to be played at 2 pm PST Wednesday.

"We have to give Kentucky a lot of credit," UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They were very disciplined offensively, and got the ball to the guys they wanted to get the ball to. They out-rebounded us and they were more disciplined than we were, and I think that was the biggest thing in the outcome."

The Wildcats were led by the 24 points from freshman Brandon Knight, who played only nine minutes of the first half due to foul trouble. True freshman Terrence Jones picked up a double-double - 16 points and 17 rebounds, as UK out-rebounded Washington 49-39. UK's Josh Harrellson added 14 boards to go along with nine points.

"It wasn't just what he did on the boards; it's what he did on pick-and-roll defense," UK Head Coach John Calipari said of Harrellson's night. "The way he rebounded the ball and the way he played…how about that three he made? He can probably shoot threes as good as anybody on the team. He had a great effort and was close to a double-double against a top-10 team."

At the 6:33 mark of the second quarter, the Huskies' Overton was called for pushing UK's Deandre Liggins as Washington was calling a time out. Right around the same time, the earthquake hit as Romar thundered around after given an explanation for why the technical was called.

"I felt the earth shaking and the rims moving," UW junior guard Isaiah Thomas said.

"There was an earthquake?" queried Calipari after the game.

The game went on without interruption, and the resulting made free throw from Brandon Knight gave the Wildcats a 63-54 lead.

With 3:49 left, a technical foul was called on Knight, and Overton made two free throws. "I was given an explanation, but…never mind," Romar said.

Washington battled back, led by their co-captain Thomas, who scored six of the Huskies' final eight points, but couldn't convert key 3-point chances - one with 3:10 left that could have cut the Wildcats' 66-61 lead to two, and with 28 seconds left, which could have pulled the game to one point.

Thomas' layup with 47 seconds left brought the Huskies to within two, but UK converted five of six free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

"In transition, maybe they are the best team in the country," Calipari said. "You better keep them off the glass and you better keep them off transition. They are like Noah's Ark - they have a couple of everything.

"Guys fought like crazy. Guys had some great individual performances, but our team isn't there yet. That's what happens with young guys. But we made the free throws at the end when we needed them, which means we have the will to win."

As Jones went to the line with 18 seconds left, Wildcat fans were chanting his name in tribute to the Portland-based player who originally committed to Washington, but eventually signed with Kentucky.

"He wasn't bad," Calipari said of Jones' play. "The last three minutes, he went haywire and had that glazed look…maybe he was winded, I don't know. But there were a bunch of big plays he came up with, a bunch of second-effort plays."

The Huskies were lucky to get back and make it a competitive affair after Kentucky roared out to a 20-8 early lead. After giving up two quick buckets, Calipari called timeout only 49 seconds into the start of the game. It looked like Washington was going to do to Big Blue what they had done to Virginia; create turnovers, force tempo and play in transition.

From that point on, Kentucky did a good job of holding onto the ball and not giving run-outs to the opportunistic Huskies. "They only had 15 turnovers, so weren't able to just impose our will on them physically," Romar said. "We did OK defensively, but without us getting them to turn the ball over, we didn't get as many run-outs. And there were run-outs where we didn't convert."

"That was the difference in the game," Calipari said. "That's why, when we were making free throws up one instead of down 12. I had to call timeout 30 seconds in the game. The beginning of the game…we knew this was going to be two talented teams battling against each other, and we couldn't back down."

"Terrence really exploits the mismatches the way he plays," Romar added. "It's been difficult for teams to stop him on the drive. Terrence is a good basketball player. He found a way to contribute to his team."

The Huskies were able to battle back to actually take the lead at halftime, 35-34, but couldn't sustain the pace that got them back in the game. And Kentucky wouldn't let them run out and make easy buckets. Instead Washington had to rely on their half-court offense and

My biggest fear was that we had played three ball games and averaging 105 points or whatever it was," Romar said. "Rarely did we go deep in the shot clock to guard or offensively keep the basketball. My biggest fear was that, when that happened, we wouldn't be able to adjust quick enough. Even before we got here we worked on making sure everyone understood that one day, this was going to happen and we would have to go deep in the shot clock.

"I think that's what got us tonight. We'll do a better job as a result of it, though. When you play a team like Kentucky in a tournament like this, they are going to find all your weaknesses. You're going to see all your warts, and I think our guys understand that."
Points: Thomas 13, Holiday 11, Gant 10, Gaddy 8, Overton 8, Bryan-Amaning 7, N'Diaye 5, Wilcox 3, Ross 2
Rebounds: N'Diaye 10, TEAM 7, Gaddy 3, Overton 3, Bryan-Amaning 2, Gant 2, Thomas 2, Ross 2, Wilcox 1
Assists: Gaddy 4, Holiday 2, Thomas 1, Ross 1, Overton 1
Blocks: N'Diaye 5, Holiday 2
Steals: Gaddy 3, Holiday 2, Overton 2, Thomas 1 Top Stories