Date story was published: Saturday, March 10, 1984
NASHVILLE -- Dicky Beal sank two pressure free throws with three seconds remaining as third-ranked Kentucky edged Alabama 48-46 last night to advance to the finals of the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament for the 20th time in 25 events.
The Wildcats, 25-4 and regular season champions of the SEC for the 35th time, will take on conference runner-up Auburn in the championship game this afternoon with the winner claiming the league's automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA championships.
Auburn, which has never played in a title game before, trimmed Tennessee 60-58 in the other semifinal match last night.
Alabama, 18-11, had tied the game at 46 with 1:46 remaining when Buck Johnson hit a pair of free throws.
Kentucky held the ball the rest of the way, calling one timeout with one minute to play when the Cats appeared to be confused, and then another with 20 seconds left to set up a final shot.
Beal dribbled across the top of the circle, turned into the lane and fired up an eight-footer that failed, but he was fouled by the Crimson Tide's Terry Coner on the play.
After Alabama burned a timeout, Beal drilled both free throws and the Tide was unable to get off a shot before the final buzzer.
It was an intense, close contest throughout.
Kentucky took the biggest lead of the game at 14-7 after 8:21 had elapsed, but the Tide fought back behind the shooting of Terry Williams and went ahead 24-22 on Darrell Neal's layup with 1:07 left.
Kentucky held for the final shot of the half, and Jim Master's 22-footer bounced off the rim and fell through at the buzzer to leave the teams deadlocked 24-24 at intermission.
Alabama twice had four-point leads in the first four minutes of the second half before Kentucky tied it at 34-34 on a tip-in by Sam Bowie and two free throws by Master with 14:53 to play.
Never more than two points separated the teams the rest of the game.
Master led all scorers with 16 points, Beal had 10 and Melvin Turpin contributed 12 after hitting for a record-tying 42 in Kentucky's quarterfinal victory over Georgia Thursday night.
Bobby Lee Hurt had 15 for Alabama and Williams 14.
Master jumped for joy when his shot at the buzzer sent the two teams into the locker room tied at 24-24.
Master's tying shot bounced 10 feet into the air and fell through as the horn sounded, but the nature of the shot could also have made Alabama happy.
Unlike on Thursday night, when UK dominated smaller Georgia, things didn't come so easy for Kentucky last night. Master's clutch shot was only one of 18 such efforts from the perimeter in the first half.
Alabama, sagging in a 2-3 zone, cut off UK's inside game and dared the Cats to win the game with jump shots.
Of UK's 27 first-half shots, guards Dicky Beal and Master took 12. Even more telling was the performance of Turpin in the first 20 minutes. UK's big man was coming off an SEC tournament record tying 42-point night against Georgia. But, against Alabama, Turpin could get off only five shots in the first half. He was nearly as hot as he was the night before, making four of his shots, but the infrequency of his field-goal attempts was one reason why UK couldn't bust this game open early.
The two teams traded the lead twice and didn't allow each other to pull ahead by more than seven points in the first 20 minutes. UK had that lead (14-7), but the edge came on outside shooting instead of the Cats' favored inside attack.
Except for a Walker tip and a Master layup off a rare UK fast break, the Cats got only one shot inside in the first 12 minutes. That shot was a post-up by Bowie, who left the game in foul trouble. Bowie picked up his third foul with 7:04 remaining and sat out the rest of the half.
UK opened the game in a man-to-man defense, but when Tide center Bobby Lee Hurt posted up strong in the early going -- and point guard Eric Richardson took Master to school -the Cats quickly shifted to a 2-3 zone. UK went to a zone after a TV timeout at the 15:22 mark and stayed in that alignment for the rest of the half.
Settled in a zone, UK got four outside shots from Beal and Master to take its lead. Beal hit two from the top of the key, while Master drilled a 15-footer to push UK ahead 14-7 at the 11:39 mark.
But, those shots started falling off the rims as Alabama made its comeback.
The Tide did what the Cats wanted to do -- namely, to get the ball inside.
Hurt and Buck Johnson combined for eight points in the half, most of them coming inside.
Terry Williams took care of the outside work, scoring 10 points over UK's zone.