Cats Can't Close

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Robert Vaden let it go, turned as the
ball made its way through the net and began pounding his chest.
Another big shot for the UAB guard, another tough loss for
reeling Kentucky.
Vaden scored a career-high 33 points, including the go-ahead
3-pointer with 1:15 to play, to lead the Blazers to a 79-76 victory
over the Wildcats on Saturday, ruining Kentucky's annual trip to
Freedom Hall.
"That's the Robert Vaden I know," said UAB coach Mike Davis,
who coached Vaden at Indiana before Vaden transferred to join Davis
with the Blazers.
Vaden scored 28 points in the second half alone, helping the
Blazers (8-4) overcome a 14-point deficit to hand Kentucky (4-4)
its third straight loss.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Vaden said. "Some of
the shots I was taking, I couldn't really tell if it was going in,
but I was going to be aggressive."
Just about everything went in for Vaden and the Blazers in the
second half. UAB shot 70 percent from the field after the break,
with Vaden leading the way. He hit 6-of-7 3-pointers in the final
20 minutes, many of them with two or three hands in his face.
"I was just throwing some stuff up, and it was going in,"
Vaden said. "It means a lot to beat a team like Kentucky, even
though people say that Kentucky isn't the normal Kentucky. We are
looking to make a statement to put UAB on the map."
Walter Sharpe had 16 points and Reggie Huffman added 10 points
and 12 rebounds as the Blazers finally slowed down the Wildcats.
"That was amazing, he was unbelievable," said Sharpe of Vaden.
"He was fun to watch."
Joe Crawford hit a 3-pointer with just under 11 minutes to go to
put the Wildcats up 64-50. But the Blazers surged ahead on a 16-0
run fueled by Vaden as the Wildcats finally cooled off. UAB held
Kentucky scoreless for more than five minutes, eventually taking a
66-64 lead with 5:22 remaining.
Though the Wildcats managed to tie the game four times in the
final minutes, the hot shooting that carried them to the lead
abandoned them in the end. Kentucky made a season-high 12
3-pointers, but missed its last six attempts beyond the arc.
"I didn't think they could shoot in the second half the way
they did in the first half," Sharpe said.
Ramel Bradley led Kentucky with 23 points and six rebounds and
Patrick Patterson added 18 points and seven rebounds, but Kentucky
couldn't overcome 18 turnovers and the scintillating play of Vaden.
"I think we need to work on getting tougher, getting that
killer instinct," Bradley said. "We have to focus on getting
stops. We didn't get them and they got the momentum and we couldn't
stop them."
Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said the problem wasn't Vaden,
but the inability to stop anyone else.
"We gave them too many easy baskets in the second half, we
couldn't get any stops," he said. "When you score 78, 76 points
at home - and I consider this a home game - and you lose, it's not
very good."
Still, Kentucky had its chances. Joe Crawford hit a difficult
reverse layup to pull the Wildcats to 77-76 with 37 seconds left.
Aaron Johnson hit two free throws for UAB, but Crawford's awkward
3-point attempt clanged off the rim with 5 seconds left and the
Blazers were able to run out the clock.
"We didn't push it down like we needed to," Gillispie said.
"I was hollering it for Joe to call a timeout but he didn't hear
me. That's not exactly the shot you want."
The rally seemed unlikely for the game's first 30 minutes. The
Wildcats, who had struggled all season shooting from the perimeter,
couldn't miss early.
Bradley hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 9-0 that gave the
Wildcats an early 17-9 edge, and they got hot again late in the
half. Porter finished the half with a running 3-pointer at the
buzzer, the crowd roaring its approval as Porter leapt in the air
before sprinting to the locker room.
After a difficult stretch in losses to North Carolina and
Indiana, the Wildcats seemed to finally develop the rhythm they've
been lacking. But Vaden simply wouldn't let the Wildcats run away.
He hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the 16-0 run that gave the
Blazers their first lead since the opening minutes.
"We made the stops down the stretch we needed to make," Davis
said. "The last 10 minutes was like the four games we've lost. But
today we had guys step up and make plays. When adversity came up,
we've got to start believing we can win and I think our guys did
that in the second half."