Prince's sweet 41 carry Kentucky into round of 16

Senior's career high topples Tulsa, 87-82

East Regional

March 17, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS -- Tayshaun Prince has often tried to be the voice of reason in Kentucky's stormy season. But until the NCAA tournament began for the Wildcats Thursday, Prince's words often went unheeded. The younger Wildcats mostly went their own way, usually in the wrong direction.

Last night at the Edward Jones Dome, Prince provided the map for fourth-seeded Kentucky in its second-round East Regional struggle against 12th-seeded Tulsa. Locked in a tight battle with the upstart Golden Hurricane, the Wildcats followed their shooting Prince all the way to the Sweet 16.

In a performance that will go down in the lore of the storied Kentucky program, the scrawny 6-foot-9 senior forward scored a career-high 41 points to lead the Wildcats to an 87-82 victory. Prince tied the school's postseason scoring record, set in the same town by Jack Givens against Duke in the 1978 NCAA championship game.

Prince made 14 of 21 shots, including six of eight from three-point range, but it was his free-throw shooting that secured victory after Tulsa (27-7) cut an 11-point deficit with a little over six minutes left to two, 82-80, on a three-pointer by senior guard Greg Harrington in the final minute. Prince, a 69 percent free-throw shooter, made four straight foul shots.

`The difference between today and the other day [against Valparaiso] was today I got to the basket, I got in the paint and I got some things to fall before I shot the outside shot," said Prince, who had missed nine of 14 shots in the opening round. "I felt confident with my shot going inside and outside."

Said Kentucky coach Tubby Smith: "It was a spectacular 41-point performance."

The victory pointed Kentucky (22-9) toward a destination that seemed quite unlikely a little more than a week ago, when the struggling Wildcats closed the regular season with a loss at Vanderbilt and then got knocked out of the Southeastern Conference tournament by South Carolina in the opening round.

Kentucky will move on to the Friday's East Regional semifinals at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., playing the Maryland-Wisconsin victor. It marks the first trip to the Sweet 16 for the Wildcats since Prince's freshman year.

Prince's shooting got the Wildcats off to a fast start, with his three-pointer giving Kentucky a 17-11 lead. But the Golden Hurricane, which upset fifth-seeded Marquette on a last-second shot by Harrington, wouldn't go away. After an 11-0 run late in the first half gave Tulsa a 42-40 lead, Prince's desperation three put Kentucky in front.

"That was a big, big shot," Prince said. "It gave us the momentum going into halftime."

With the score tied at 58 with 12:42 left in the game, Prince hit another three to start and added two more baskets in a 9-1 run that gave Kentucky some breathing room. When his teammates finally realized they needed to get him the ball on nearly every possession, the lead bulged to 79-68.

Tulsa tried as many as four different players on Prince, but he was too quick for 6-7 juniors Charlie Davis or Kevin Johnson, and much too tall for the 6-2 Harrington or 5-10 Dante Swanson. Just as some of Prince's teammates watched in awe of his performance, some of the Golden Hurricane players were nearly as mesmerized.

"It gets pretty frustrating," said Harrington. "It got to the point that I shook my head. It was a really good performance. We tried to find something to stop him, but nothing worked."

Despite Prince's heroics, the Golden Hurricane was right in the game when Harrington drilled a three with a little under a minute to go. A sometimes shaky free-throw shooter, Prince calmly buried two free throws with 39 seconds left. After a Tulsa free throw cut Kentucky's lead to one, Prince got the rebound on a miss and was fouled again, making both shots.

"It was a matter of getting to the line and getting the repetitions," said Prince, who wound up 7-for-9 from the line. "I didn't feel any pressure. Coach said it was going to be a war and the last team standing would win. I knew we had to bring our A game because they were going to bring theirs."

In Prince's case, the A might have stood for automatic.

TULSA--Harrington 5-9 3-3 14, Johnson 8-12 2-2 18, Davis 4-6 1-2 9, Swanson 3-9 0-0 7, Reed 6-12 2-4 18, Glenn 0-1 0-0 0, Jason.Parker 3-7 3-4 11, Ledoux 1-2 0-0 2, Ingram 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 31-61 11-15 82. KENTUCKY--Prince 14-21 7-9 41, Hayes 1-5 5-7 7, Camara 4-11 0-0 8, Hawkins 2-4 1-2 6, Bogans 5-10 7-9 19, Carruth 1-2 0-0 3, Blevins 0-2 0-0 0, Fitch 1-4 1-2 3, Daniels 0-1 0-0 0, Estill 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 28-63 21-29 87. Halftime--Kentucky, 43-42. 3-point goals--Tulsa 9-20 (Reed 4-7, Jason.Parker 2-4, Harrington 1-2, Ingram 1-2, Swanson 1-5), Kentucky 10-19 (Prince 6-8, Bogans 2-5, Carruth 1-1, Hawkins 1-1, Blevins 0-1, Fitch 0-1, Hayes 0-2). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Tulsa 35 (Johnson 8), Kentucky 35 (Prince 9). Assists--Tulsa 17 (Harrington 6), Kentucky 19 (Hawkins, Hayes, Prince 4). Total fouls--Tulsa 20, Kentucky 17.

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