Wildcats squeeze past Volunteers

By Wes Holtsclaw

   KNOXVILLE - 19 of 21. Those were the numbers for the Kentucky Wildcats from the charity stripe in the second half, where they got a hard earned 74-71 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers last night.
   A critical night of officiating combined with an almost perfect effort in the second half from Tubby Smith's club was just enough to escape Thompson-Boling Arena in the win column.
   "It was a well played game tonight," said Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson. "But you can't afford to put someone at the foul line 34 times and expect to win the game.
   "We got too many guys in foul trouble," he said, "We handled the press very well. I'm proud of the team; they fought hard down the stretch. We just couldn't capitalize on any opportunities."
   Kentucky opened up immediately with a nice three from Antwain Barber, but the Vols soared right back behind seven straight points from Ron Slay.
   An additional two straight tray's from Jon Higgins put Tennessee up by eight.
   Kentucky rallied back behind Gerald Fitch and Chuck Hayes to take their first steady lead of the contest. Turnovers ousted the Vols as Kentucky went up by seven.
   Jon Higgins came back into the game after a bout with personal fouls to nail a tying three-point bucket. Jules Camara hit some clutch buckets for Kentucky, over a tough C.J. Watson.
   Stanley Asumnu and Egrace Wilborn kicked into high gear for Tennessee, with a steal and monster jam to take a 31-29 lead going into the second half.
   Tennessee got a lot of help from the charity stripe, as they shot 92 percent compared to Kentucky's 69.
   Kentucky and Tennessee fought tooth and nail in the second half.
   The action got going immediately after trading three-point plays from Tennessee's Ron Slay and Derek Stribling against Kentucky's Fitch.
   The officials made several calls that didn't sit well with the fans, which helped Kentucky battle back to their first lead at the 12 minute mark with help from the stripe.
   Wilborn added a pair of slams for the Volunteers, but Keith Bogans came out ready to rumble in the second half. His presence pushed Kentucky to a five-point lead.
   Higgins fought with the officials again, keeping Tennessee within a score of the Wildcats. But he was fouled out of the game after another missed call.
   Higgins left with 17 points, and took the prospect of a solid outside shot with him.
   However, the crowd got louder and Tennessee got three straight solid plays from Slay and Thaydeus Holden as the time wired down.
   The orange and white had two straight turnovers on tying opportunities. But Slay powered in two points, followed by a C.J. Watson steal of Bogans, converted into a one-point Tennessee lead.
   Camara followed suit with a bucket for Kentucky, giving the Volunteers one last chance. However, Tennessee was forced to foul and got in trouble with a missed three from Holden as time expired.
   It was the Wildcats' first conference win of the season, tallying the squad at a 10-3 record.
   Slay finished with a game high 22 points, while Kentucky's Bogans had 20. Gerald Fitch netted 17, while Camara topped 12 for the Cats. Watson contributed 15 for the Vols .