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Kentucky opens season against Miami of Ohio

Nov 15, 2006 - 4:46 PM Miami (OH) (0-1) at No. 22 Kentucky (0-0) 7:00 pm EST

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) - Tubby Smith and No. 22 Kentucky will look to get tougher after a down year.

Smith coaches career game No. 499 here when the Wildcats open their season against Miami of Ohio on Wednesday.

Last season, Kentucky absorbed a rough 22-13 campaign where it failed to either win or tie for first in the Southeastern Conference East Division for the first time in nine seasons under Smith.

The Wildcats also lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Connecticut, failing to reach a regional semifinal for just the fourth time in 16 years.

In all, Kentucky has not won a title or reached the Final Four since 1998, a drought that has the fans at Rupp Arena grumbling.

Despite the early departure of do-everything point guard Rajon Rondo to the NBA, the Wildcats have four steady returners in center Randolph Morris, guards Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley and forward Bobby Perry.

Morris missed the first 14 games of last year because he accepted improper benefits during an entry into the NBA draft. The 6-11 junior needs to step up as an intimidating presence inside if the Wildcats are to return to the nation's elite.

Miami, the preseason pick to finish third in the Mid-American Conference East, will be looking to bounce back from a tough, 57-56 loss to Wright State in its home opener Saturday.

Wright State's DaShaun Wood scored the deciding layup with two-tenths of a second to play.

Senior forward Nathan Peavy was the lone player in double figures with 20 points. The Redhawks shot just 37 percent (8-of-22) in the second half as they were unable to hold onto a five-point lead at the break.

Kentucky, which is 27-3 in home openers at Rupp Arena, is 20-4 all-time against Miami.

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