Date story was published: December 21, 1983
CINCINNATI -- Its architect called it good strategy, its victim called it bad business. On several occasions, those in attendance gave it a resounding review of boorrriiinnnggg! Whichever, for the large contingent of Kentucky fans that helped fill Riverfront Coliseum last night for a glimpse at their Wildcats, it was downright robbery.
"Hey Joe B.," yelled one such disgruntled patron to Kentucky Coach Joe Hall at game's end, "come back when they play you a real game of basketball."
But then few could blame either side. Traveling to Cincinnati for the first time in 35 years, the second-ranked Wildcats ran into a premeditated slowdown and ground out a 24-11 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats before 16,136 fans last night.
Yes, 24-11. Yes, basketball, or at least that was the ball they played with. ''If someone told you the halftime score was going to be 11-7," one reporter asked Hall afterward, "What would you have thought?"
"I would have thought one team stalled," said Hall.
That team was UC, that coach was Tony Yates. Coming in with a 1-6 record with no player over 6-foot-7 against a team 5-0 and with two starters over 6-10, Yates felt he had no choice. Forget that this game was on national television, via ESPN. Forget that this was the third-largest UC basketball crowd in Riverfront history. Forget that the two schools, approximately 80 miles apart, were giving consideration to a longer contract once the current three-year version runs out.
"No," said Yates, "It wasn't a hard decision. We just wanted to utilize our small personnel against their bigger personnel.
"If they had played us the other way," said UK's Sam Bowie, "I think all of us know what the outcome would have been."
That did not mean the Wildcats had to like it. "I wouldn't have had the guts," said Hall, "to do it in front of our crowd."
"I've never been known," said Yates, "for a lack of guts."
Last night, he surely proved it. It took only about three minutes for the UC strategy to become crystal clear. Kentucky's Sam Bowie hit a free throw after being fouled on a botched lob attempt. Then UC's leading scorer Mark Dorris connected from the left corner and hit a free throw two minutes later to make it 3-1 Bearcats. From then on, it was slowball.
Kentucky did score six straight points -- two baskets coming from Melvin Turpin -- to make it 7-3, but it took six minutes and only after the UC delay game either handed the ball over or missed the shot it had worked for.
Then after Dorris scored again and UK's Jim Master buried a 20-footer, the Bearcats brought out the freezer. Back and forth it went between UC guards Marty Campbell and Tony Wilson. In all, the Bearcats ran off 6:22 on the clock -- from 10:13 to 3:51. At 4:53, Kentucky had apparently closed in for a steal, but the Bearcats called a quick timeout. The Cats, who had been playing a 1-3-1 zone switched to a 2-3 and forced a turnover a minute later.
Turpin then hit a hook with 2:24 left to make it 11-5 and with 37 seconds left UC's Wilson banked in a jumper to make it an 11-7 haltime count.
The Bearcats came out with more of the same in the second half. Taking the ball first, UC ran off 4:03 before being whistled for a 5-second count. Kentucky quickly hustled three guards into the game -- Roger Harden, Paul Andrews and Dicky Beal (later to be replaced by Master) -- to chase the UC guards.
But the smaller lineup didn't do too bad on offense either. Bowie tipped in a missed shot to make it 13-7 and UC came back with two straight buckets -its only string of the game -- to make it 13-11 with 12:55 left. From there to the final buzzer, UK outscored the Bearcats 11-0.
The first basket came on a jumper by Harden at 12:21. Andrews hit a jumper from he left corner at 9:56, and a free throw at 6:52. Bowie scored on a lob at 6:42 to make it 20-11, then Winston Bennett hit a shot and Bowie and Master hit free throws for the final score.
It was the lowest-scoring UK game since Kentucky beat Mississippi A&M 20-14 in 1929-30. It was the lowest score in a UC game since 1930-31, when the Bearcats lost to Michigan State 22-8.
"I was real pleased with our defensive unit that we put in the second half, the smaller unit," said Hall. "Dicky wasn't able to move laterally but I thought they did a good job."
Hall, however, was less than pleased with the game. "From our standpoint, it's just so easy to dictate the tempo in that direction," said Hall. "The real feeling is for our fans, what they had to go through to get tickets and everything for this game. I feel sorry for them."
And perturbed enough that Hall admitted that his school might go back and look at the existing three-year contract between the two schools. UC is scheduled to play in the UKIT next year, then come to Rupp Arena again the following year. "I don't think you can reward that kind of play," said Hall.
"I don't have any comment on that," said Yates.
"After the third year, that's it?" asked one reporter.
"I think you said it," said Hall.