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November 23, 2010LAHAINA, Hawaii - A 4.7-magnitude earthquake centering on one of the neighboring islands rattled tables and chairs, shook the stands, had the rims swaying back and forth.
Few people at the game between Kentucky and Washington seemed to notice. They were too busy watching two good teams face each other.
Terrence Jones had a double-double against the team he spurned, Brandon Knight keyed two important runs on his way to 24 points, and the eighth-ranked Wildcats shook off poor shooting - and an earthquake - to hold off the No. 13 Huskies 74-67 in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
``We were fortunate to get where we were and sneak out (with a win),'' Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Kentucky (4-0) and Washington (3-1) traded blows from the opening tip, swatting shots into the stands, knocking each other to the floor, diving for loose balls.
The real trembler came during a timeout with a little over 6 minutes left in the game.
The earthquake, centered on the Big Island, shook for about 5 seconds, wobbling courtside tables and chairs, swaying the baskets. No injuries or damage were reported and the game resumed once the timeout was over.
Few people seemed to notice - the two coaches among them - but some of the players were aware of it as their coaches talked during the timeout.
``I felt the ground shaking and the rim was moving,'' said Washington's Isaiah Thomas, who led the Huskies with 13 points. ``I didn't know if it was an earthquake.''
The rims were hard to hit even while sitting still in this defensive-dominated game.
Kentucky shot just 39 percent, was an abysmal 3 for 17 from 3-point range and had just seven assists to go with 15 turnovers. Knight was the lone bright spot shooting-wise, going 10 of 17 from the floor, but the rest of the Wildcats starters were a combined 12 for 31.
Washington wasn't any better, shooting 38 percent, including 3 of 13 from long range - 1 of 8 in the second half - after making 17 against Virginia the night before. Thomas had to work for everything he got, hitting 4 of 14 shots, and leading scorer Matt Bryan-Amaning was just 3 for 11.
``Seems like sometimes the rim was moving anyway,'' Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said.
A raucous crowd filled tiny Lahaina Civic Center to the rafters for this Top-15 matchup, the loud-and-rowdy mass of Kentucky fans and small-but-vocal Washington contingent making it feel like a postseason, not holiday tournament.
Washington's fans pointed much of their ire at Jones.
He was one of the nation's top recruits coming out of Portland and was set to stay in the Pacific Northwest after holding a news conference to announce he was heading to Washington.
He had second thoughts a few hours later, though, and called Calipari to say he might have made a mistake. Jones also called Romar and, a month later, had changed his mind completely and was headed to Lexington.
Romar and Calipari shrugged it off as an 18-year-old kid being indecisive, saying it was nothing more than a minor subplot to a matchup of two Top 25 teams.
Washington's fans had a different view, especially after their program had already lost to Enes Kanter to the Wildcats. Those who were in Maui booed him relentlessly throughout the game, firing up the occasional chant of liar!
Jones has been superb this season and was dominant in the tournament opener against Oklahoma, getting 29 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists.
The 6-foot-8 phenom was a little extra amped at the start, missing one shot after another while seeming to try too hard to make something happen. He finished 4 for 13 from the floor, but made up for it with hard work and staying aggressive.
Jones got to the free throw line seven times, making 8 of 14, blocked four shots and, for the most part, seemed to keep his composure amid the jeers.
``There were a bunch of big plays he came up with, a bunch of big second-effort rebounds,'' Calipari said. ``The kid gets 16 rebounds and 17 points, and played pretty good.''
Another of Kentucky's fabulous freshman stole the show early and later.
Knight, a shifty 6-foot-3 guard from Florida, hit jumpers and drove hard to the rim, scoring 12 points in the first 7 minutes to help the Wildcats to a 21-10 lead.
Washington turned up the intensity after that initial blow though, getting into the lane offensively and holding Kentucky without a field goal for nearly eight minutes to lead 35-34 at halftime.
Washington kept it close well into the second half, but dropped seven points behind thanks to another burst keyed by Knight.
The Huskies fought their way back, pulling within 69-67 on Thomas' hard drive with 47 seconds left, but Kentucky finished it off by hitting 5 of 6 free throws in the final 36 seconds.
Next up for the Wildcats is the UConn in the title game, a matchup of young teams still trying to figure out just how good they are.
``We're young. They're young. It's the same deal,'' Calipari said. ``We've got to figure out how we've got to play. It should be fun tomorrow.''