Dec. 3, 1996

No. 6 Kentucky Defeats Purdue in DIRECTTV Great Eight

CHICAGO - Ron Mercer scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half as sixth-ranked Kentucky extended a three-point halftime lead to a 101-87 victory over Purdue in the nightcap of the DIRECTTV Great Eight Tournament at the United Center in Chicago.

Jared Prickett added 17 points and eight rebounds for Kentucky (4-1), which held a 46-43 lead at halftime. The Wildcats have won five of seven all-time meetings against Purdue.

"I think Ron played a terrific game," said Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. "Shooting 13-for-16, he got a lot of easy buckets, but he also created a lot of easy buckets by his good play. Ron is a special sophomore. I don't by any means want to put Ron in the same breath as Michael Jordan, but at the collegiate level, Ron's was a Michael Jordan-like performance."

Michael Robinson scored 20 points and Chad Austin added 18 for the Boilermakers (2-2), who have lost consecutive games for just the third time in four years.

Prickett, Mercer and Jamaal Magliore opened the second half with consecutive layups to give the Wildcats a 52-43 advantage with 17:40 remaining and the Boilermakers were unable to draw closer than five points the rest of the way.

"It was a very hard-fought game by both teams," said Pitino. "We have more experience and more weapons, but they are a team that digs in and goes after you. What we tried to do was attack them inside and get them in foul trouble. We are very pleased with this victory. We are extremely disappointed in our defensive attack. Teams are shooting too high a percentage against our team. We have a lot of room for improvement, which is good when you're winning."

Kentucky shot 67 percent (22-for-33) from the field in the second half and led by as many as 17 points.

"It is hard," Purdue coach Gene Keady said of Kentucky's defense. "It's a system that takes a while to teach. They get after you and force you into trouble. We gave them way too many layups. We have to get that corrected."

Brad Miller, who had 12 points, made a dunk to give Purdue a 6-2 lead with 15:09 remaining in the first half. But Derek Anderson's layup put Kentucky ahead for good, 7-6, with 13:55 left. Mercer made a nine-footer to cap a 9-2 spurt and increase the margin to 13-8 with 12:09 left.

Mercer added a three-pointer to cap a 17-6 burst and give the Wildcats a 44-30 cushion with 3:47 left before halftime. But Miller made a layup with 2.9 seconds to go as Purdue closed the half with a 13-2 spurt.

"I don't think we were there defensively at all," Pitino said, referring to the end of the first half. "It was very dissapointing. Purdue played great three-point defense and we played terrible three-point defense. Purdue is to be commended."

KENTUCKY (101)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Mercer          36 13-16   3-4   2-7  3  3   30
Prickett        36  7-12   3-7   3-8  5  3   17
Magloire        19   2-6   2-3   3-4  0  1    6
Epps            31  4-10   3-4   0-1  5  1   11
Anderson        26  5-13   2-2   2-5  6  4   12
Edwards         18   4-5   0-0   2-2  1  4    8
Mohammed        14   3-3   2-3   0-2  1  2    8
Turner          20   4-4   1-2   0-1  7  3    9
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TOTALS         200 42-69 16-25 12-30 28 21  101
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Percentages: FG-.609, FT-.640. 3-Point Goals:
1-9, .111 (Mercer 1-2, Epps 0-3, Anderson 0-4).
Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 1 (Magloire).
Turnovers: 17 (Prickett 4, Anderson 3, Epps 3,
Magloire 2, Mercer 2, Turner 2, Mohammed).
Steals: 17 (Mercer 4, Anderson 3, Prickett 3,
Edwards 2, Magloire 2, Turner 2, Mohammed).
PURDUE (87)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Robinson        31  9-14   0-1   0-2  5  2   20
Cardinal        31   5-8   3-5   0-6  3  5   17
Miller          19   5-6   2-2   0-0  4  5   12
Austin          34  6-12   4-6   0-3  5  3   18
Eldridge        25   0-2   2-2   0-2  1  1    2
Cornell         20   0-1   2-2   2-2  3  2    2
Mcquay          19   2-4   2-2   0-2  0  1    6
Gilvydis         3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Lesmond         18   4-6   0-0   0-1  0  3   10
-----------------------------------------------
TOTALS         200 31-54 15-20  2-18 21 22   87
-----------------------------------------------
Percentages: FG-.574, FT-.750. 3-Point Goals:
10-17, .588 (Robinson 2-4, Cardinal 4-6, Austin
2-2, Eldridge 0-1, Cornell 0-1, Lesmond 2-3).
Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 1 (Cardinal).
Turnovers: 28 (Austin 7, Cornell 6, Eldridge 5,
Miller 3, Lesmond 2, Mcquay 2, Robinson). Steals:
5 (Cardinal 2, Austin, Mcquay, Miller).
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Kentucky           46   55  -  101
Purdue             43   44  -   87
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Technical fouls: None.  A: 20,171. Officials:
Duke Edsall, Larry Rose, Steve Kirk.