Monday , Jan , 26 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kentucky holds off late Irish rally

South Bend, IN (Sports Network) – Chuck Hayes finished with 21 points, six
rebounds and five assists as No. 9 Kentucky held on for a 71-63 win over Notre
Dame at the Joyce Center. Hayes hit 7-of-11 shots from the field and 7-of-10
from the line for the Wildcats (13-2), who improved to 10-1 against non-
conference opponents this season.

“We did the things we had to do to get the win,” Kentucky head coach Tubby
Smith said.

Gerald Fitch added 15 points and Kelenna Azubuike contributed 14 for Kentucky,
which swept the four-year home and home series with Notre Dame.

Torrian Jones and Chris Thomas each scored 16 points as the Fighting Irish
(9-6) dropped their third game in four tries. Notre Dame also fell to 0-4
versus ranked opponents this season.

The Fighting Irish trailed the entire second half, but were able to put
together a run late in the game to pull within two, their smallest margin
since the first couple of minutes. A 10-2 run, capped by Chris Quinn’s two
free throws with just over a minute to play, made it 66-63.

After Hayes’ free throw made it a four-point game, Notre Dame’s Jordan
Cornette missed a lay-in and fouled going for the rebound. Azubuike then put
the game away with two free throws and provided an exclamation point with a
dunk at the buzzer.

“We have to put teams away. That way we can get better,” Kentucky’s Erik
Daniels explained.

The Wildcats took control of the contest early on behind the strong play of
Daniels down low. The 6-foot-8 senior scored all eight of his points early
on, including six during a 9-0 Kentucky run, to help the Wildcats open a 13-5
edge just over four minutes into the game.

Notre Dame was behind for almost the entire first half, and trailed by as many
as 15 points at 32-17 on a lay-up by Hayes with 6:20 remaining. But Thomas and
Tom Timmermans immediately spearheaded a 9-0 run to pull the Fighting Irish
within six.

After Thomas ignited the burst with a jumper, Timmermans followed with a lay-
in and a tip-in. Thomas then capped the spurt with a three-pointer with 4:19
to play in the opening 20 minutes, closing the gap to 32-26.

Kentucky still took a double-digit advantage, 39-29, into the locker room.
Thomas and Fitch each led their respective clubs with nine points apiece in
the first half.

Neither team distinguished itself considerably early in the second half, as
the lead hovered around 10 for quite awhile. Despite staying within striking
distance, Notre Dame was unable to pull any closer than seven until late in
the game.

Jones’ free throw with 15:52 left in the game drew the Irish within 47-40.
Kentucky, though, responded with eight of the next 10 points to create
some space.

“We did not have any major defensive breakdowns except not boxing out.
Otherwise, we had about as complete a game as we have had in some time,” a
pleased Smith said of his team’s performance.

Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith improved to 4-0 in his career against the
Fighting Irish. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 41-17.