|01-10-2005, 05:48 AM|
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Lee's three lifts Kansas over 'Cats
By Gary Bedore, Assistant Sports Editor
Monday, January 10, 2005
Lexington, Ky. — Rolling on the ground with the basketball barely in his possession, Aaron Miles still felt in control late in Sunday's Kansas University-Kentucky basketball showdown at Rupp Arena.
"I knew I could find Mike. We've got a connection, a feel -- a Portland connection, a family connection," said Miles, KU's senior guard.
Miles flipped the ball to fellow Portland, Ore., native and best buddy Michael Lee, who drained a three-pointer with :31 left, giving KU a 61-56 lead in what turned out to be a huge 65-59 Jayhawk victory.
It was the shot KU coach Bill Self called the single-biggest play in No. 2-ranked KU's victory over the No. 8-ranked Wildcats.
"I saw him. I saw him as a blur," joked Miles, who also put in a pivotal basket of his own, a driving layup with 3:35 left that put an end to a 9-0 UK run that turned Kansas' game-high eight-point lead at 52-44 into a 53-52 Kentucky lead.
"I made a joke after the game. That's how you run a pick-and-roll right there," Self said after his Jayhawks' first road game of the season bolstered the squad's record to 11-0 compared to Kentucky's 10-2 mark.
"They defended it well. They switched, and we knew they would," Self added. "Aaron said, ‘Give me the ball.' He didn't handle it very well, but he had the presence of mind to bat the ball to Mike. The ball went in as the buzzer sounded. It was the biggest offensive possession of the game."
Lee was in the game during crunch time as the Jayhawks hung tough without Wayne Simien, plus Keith Langford (concussion with 2:45 left), Christian Moody (ankle sprain with 1:29 left) and Russell Robinson (played two minutes second half after getting hit in head).
Lee wasn't so sure he'd get a chance to release the back-breaking three.
"I honestly thought they'd call a travel," said Lee, who made just one basket in four attempts, but hit four free throws in 18 minutes. "I didn't hear a whistle, so I shot it.
"I did not think it was good. It sat on the rim and the net. It hugged it good."
Lee liked getting the chance to step up.
"I love 'em," he said of crunch-time shots. "I love big games like that."
So, it appears, do KU's freshmen big men, who by far had their finest games of the season Sunday.
C.J. Giles, who scored eight of KU's first 15 points and had six early boards as the Jayhawks crept to a 15-9 lead with just seven minutes left in the first half, finished with 10 points and six boards.
Sasha Kaun had a career-high seven points with four rebounds in 12 minutes. His bank shot and foul shot -- which followed the first three of Moody's career and two J.R. Giddens free throws -- gave KU a 40-33 lead with 14:22 to play.
Darnell Jackson had no stats in six minutes, but was active on a day the Jayhawks needed all their big bodies.
"This is the best we've looked, practice included," Self said, referring to his freshmen big men. "I told them before the game Kentucky had the best recruiting class in America last year.
"On paper, everybody will tell you that. Texas would be the other team. I told our guys our freshmen had to outplay their freshmen. I don't know if that happened, but I thought they played well."
"We said if we could get 20 points from our fours and fives, we had a chance to win. We got 17 from Sasha and C.J. and 11 from Christian," Self said. "If we can do that, we will be able to beat a lot of folks because Aaron, Keith and J.R. are good scorers."
The two traditional powers struggled big-time the first half. Kentucky hit 28.1 percent of its shots to KU's 26.9 percent and led 25-21 at the break.
Up 45-44 with eight minutes left, KU went on a 7-0 run that looked like it might give the Jayhawks command of the game.
Giles scored off a pass from Lee, Langford hit a basket and foul shot, and Moody put back an Alex Galindo miss at 6:07, the Jayhawks leading 52-44. That's when a pressing UK team scored nine straight to take a 53-52 lead at 3:43 following a Patrick Sparks basket.
Miles immediately drove the floor and scored at 3:35, giving the Jayhawks the lead for good.
"I happened to see a crease in the defense," Miles said. "The team needed a basket at that time."
Langford was hurt seconds later, diving for the basketball near midcourt in a four-man pileup for the ball. He suffered a severe concussion -- his status for Wednesday's game against Iowa State won't be known until after tests -- and left the game for good with 10 points and seven boards.
After a Ravi Moss miss, Galindo was fouled and swished two free throws at 2:25, giving KU a 56-53 lead. After Rajon Rondo hit one free throw, Moody dunked off a nifty pass from Lee as KU shredded the Wildcats' fullcourt press and took a lead at 58-54. Sparks cut the gap to 58-56 at 1:11, setting the stage for the next basket -- Lee's huge three.
The Jayhawks made play after play in the second half, showing poise on the road after so many home games.
"You can't get a gauge where you are until you leave your home building," Self said. "Our guys didn't act like it was the first road game of the season."
No they didn't.
It was Kansas' first win over UK in Lexington after seven losses.
"We've got good veteran players who are pretty poised," Self said. "We've said all along, before we can be good, we have to have some other guys step up. Certainly that was the case today."
Other guys as in young big guys and Galindo, who had four blocks.
"Our freshmen," Miles said, "played great. It's what we needed out of them today and every day. The big thing is they can't rest on this."
"This was great and they were great," Lee said, "It's great to come here and beat Kentucky, but this team has some other goals that are more important."
KU will play its second Big 12 Conference game of the season Wednesday at Iowa State. Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum.