Panthers can claw with big 'Cats, too Pitt stuns Kentucky for second straight upset

Puerto Rico Shootout

November 28, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico -- The Cardiac 'Cats couldn't come back this time.

Kentucky used a relentless style en route to the NCAA championship last season, as no deficit seemed too large down the stretch in Tubby Smith's first season as the Wildcats' coach. When the nation's No. 4 team fell behind Pittsburgh in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Shootout yesterday, there was no panic.

Down eight early in the second half, Kentucky forged a tie with 10 minutes left, but Pittsburgh turned it on from there, and rolled to a 68-56 victory that ended the Wildcats' winning streak at 17 games.

The Panthers will play Maryland in tonight's championship game, while Kentucky will get UCLA in a third-place game.

"Their [Pittsburgh's] intensity was excellent," Smith said. "They complement each other very well."

The result was not a shock to those who saw Pittsburgh dismantle No. 13 Xavier, 94-76, in a first-round game. The Panthers pushed the pace in that game, and yesterday they pulled the ball out and negated Kentucky's depth, thanks to an experimental 45-second shot clock that's in use here.

Pittsburgh made 60.9 percent of its field-goal attempts in the second half, and the Panthers made nine of their 17 three-pointers. Kentucky, conversely, attempted 22 three-pointers, and made just two after hitting just one of 12 in a first-round win over Colorado.

"We missed about 40 open shots," Kentucky's Scott Padgett said. "We scored at will inside but didn't get anything outside."

Pittsburgh wasn't complaining.

"Beating two ranked teams in two days means a lot for our program," said Panthers coach Ralph Willard, a former assistant at Kentucky under Rick Pitino. "It means a lot to me personally for these kids. We've got guys who have been here for two or three years, but we haven't been able to get it together because of injuries."

Pittsburgh went 11-16 last season, but it brought everyone of importance back and finally got healthy. It appeared to be more of the same when ace guard Vonteego Cummings broke his left hand in the first week of practice. He rejoined the Panthers after a season-opening 84-56 win over UMBC, and had 20 points and seven assists yesterday.

"When you beat the defending national champions," Cummings said, "that says a lot about your team."

Pittsburgh got 10 points and 10 rebounds from junior forward Isaac Hawkins. Sophomore big man Michael Bradley made all eight of his shots for Kentucky.

Kentucky's last loss came Feb. 14, 73-64, against Ole Miss at Rupp Arena. Maryland goes there Dec. 12, but before then the Wildcats will face Kansas, Miami and Indiana.

They'll also have Duke Dec. 22, so Smith will have plenty of demanding games in which to get his team settled.

No. 13 Xavier 74, Colorado 61: James Posey had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and the Musketeers (4-1) bounced back from their loss to Pittsburgh with a victory over Colorado (4-2) in the bTC consolation bracket.

The Musketeers will play San Francisco for fifth place today.

San Francisco 62, American, P.R. 46: Gerald Zimmerman scored 12 and LyRyan Russell had 11 as the Dons (3-1) beat the undermanned Pirates (0-2) in the consolation bracket.

Pub Date: 11/28/98

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