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Updated: Sunday, January 25, 2004 7:48 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(8) Kentucky 71, Notre Dame 63

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Notre Dame put a scare into Kentucky, but it was not enough for that elusive first win over a ranked team.

Chuck Hayes scored 21 points and Kelenna Azubuike had four points in the final 22 seconds as the eighth-ranked Wildcats continued their success away from home with a 71-63 victory.

Notre Dame (9-6) fell to 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, also losing to Marquette, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. The Fighting Irish need a win over a ranked opponent to improve their profile for a possible at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, and it almost happened Sunday.

The Wildcats were held scoreless for close to four minutes late in the game and Notre Dame cut its deficit to 66-63 on a pair of free throws by Chris Thomas with 67 seconds left.

Hayes answered by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 44 seconds left and Azubuike hit a pair from the line before Azubuike iced the game with a dunk with three seconds left.

"It was a tough game - Notre Dame is a good team," Azubuike said. "We played hard and had good defense."

Thomas and Torrian Jones each scored 16 points and Torin Francis grabbed 12 rebounds for the Fighting Irish, who outrebounded the Wildcats, 38-31.

A dunk by Hayes made it 66-56 with 4:27 left before the Irish chipped away. Francis hit one of two free throws before Jones and Jordan Cornette scored on tip-ins.

Gerald Fitch had 15 points and Azubuike 14 for the Wildcats, who are 3-0 on the road. Kentucky defeated Notre Dame for the 10th straight time and has won 27 of its last 29 games away from Rupp Arena, including all eight games this year. Notre Dame's last win in the series was in 1990.

"We did not have extended droughts offensively or defensively," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "We did not have any major defensive breakdowns, except not boxing out."

At halftime, Notre Dame honored members of the 1973-74 squad that snapped UCLA's 88-game winning streak. Former coach Digger Phelps even gave an emotional speech in an attempt to rally the Fighting Irish, but the Wildcats had other plans.

Kentucky led by as many as 15 in the first half, taking a 32-17 lead on a layup by Hayes with 6:20 left.

"In the first half, they played like men and we played young," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We showed better maturity and shot selection in the second half, but we just couldn't get the win."


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