One comeback short
Kentucky ends up missing 4th straight Final Four
Posted: Sunday March 21, 1999 10:31 PM
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The end for Scott Padgett and Heshimu Evans was nothing like they'd imagined.
Kentucky's two seniors were notorious by their absence of production in the Midwest Regional final Sunday as the Wildcats were denied their fourth consecutive Final Four appearance. Padgett had 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting and Evans, after scoring 12 points in the first 9:42, went without a point the rest of the way as the defending national champions lost 73-66 to No. 1 seed Michigan State.
Evans was a big reason Kentucky (28-9) twice led by 13 points in the first half. But he also played out of control at times on the defensive end and sat out much of the second half with foul trouble. He was so out of sync that coach Tubby Smith took him out with 1:42 to go and the game still hanging in the balance.
"He was off to a great start," Smith said. "I think that hurt us, him getting into foul trouble."
Evans was having trouble adjusting to the fact there will be no more games and that Kentucky no longer has a shot at becoming the first team since Duke in 1990 and '91 to repeat as national champion.
"All of our attention was to make it to the Final Four," Evans said. "We knew as the road continued it was going to get tougher. But I'm not going to hang my head. We just got beat by a good team."
Seven of Padgett's points came in the final 1:42 and his second 3-pointer in that stretch, with 18.8 seconds to go, cut the gap to 69-66. But in the final six minutes he also missed the front end of the 1-and-1 from the foul line and the second of two free throws in another situation.
Padgett had a career-high 29 points in the second round against Kansas, and scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half on Friday night against Miami.
"Usually I don't miss too many free throws," said Padgett, a 68 percent shooter. "Those are the shots you need to make."
Smith said Michigan State's quickness, especially at the forward position, was a key to neutralizing his top threats. Kentucky made seven of its first 10 shots and shot 51.7 percent in the first half, but was 9-for-24 the rest of the way.
"Every time I came off a screen, they switched everything," Padgett said. "When I tried to get to the paint, they switched to a big guy and fronted me. I also missed two or three open shots.
"I had some good looks and I didn't make them today."
Don't feel too sorry for Kentucky, which has won 132 games the last four seasons to tie its own four-year record set from 1995-98. Smith got good production in the tournament from freshmen Tayshaun Prince, Desmond Allison and Jules Camara, and sophomore Saul Smith.
Prince, who had nine points in the first three tourney games, had 12 Sunday on 3-of-3 shooting and hit both of his 3-point attempts. Allison had seven points.
"I sit here in awe of all the accomplishments and accolades, both as a team and individually, that they achieved," Smith said of the departing seniors. "They set a template for me to follow."The loss was Kentucky's first in 10 NCAA Tournament games.
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