Date story was published: Sunday, April 1, 1984
SEATTLE -- 9.1.
That number will probably remain more of a lasting memory than the score.
It will take a place alongside the loss to Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA finals as the darkest of moments for Kentucky basketball.
Its toll was devastating, resulting in a 53-40 Kentucky loss to Georgetown here yesterday in the Final Four semifinals.
The 9.1 was UK's ticket home, validated by a Georgetown defense the likes of which the Wildcats hadn't seen before.
The 9.1 was the percentage UK shot -- if "shot" is the proper word -- in a second half in which the Wildcats became the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
"It's probably the worst in the history of the school," Dicky Beal said.
Actually, surprisingly, it wasn't. Way back in 1928, a UK team shot 2.1 percent in a game at Maryland.
However, it may have been UK's worst in what is known as the "modern" era. The modern low mark was a 16.3 percent performance against Georgia Tech in 1960.
Unquestionably, yesterday's was the most ill-timed cold spell.
Its effect was to wipe out all the good done in the first half. In those opening 20 minutes, the Wildcats led all the way, building their edge to as much as 12 (27-15) before settling for a 29-22 halftime advantage.
Even more important, the Wildcats had taken it to 7-foot Patrick Ewing and saddled the fiercest and tallest of Georgetown's intimidators with three fouls.
Then came a shooting performance so disastrous that Joe Hall searched the cosmos for an explanation.
"I guess it was an extra-celestial phenomenon," the UK coach said.
It certainly was out of this world.
UK scored only two points in the first 16 minutes of the second half. During that span, all that the Wildcats got in the basket was a 12-footer from Winston Bennett. Otherwise, Kentucky was zero for 20. For the half, UK made only three of 33 shots, with another freshman, James Blackmon, accounting for the other two.
UK's starters, so heroic this season, were zip for 21 in the final 20 minutes.
"When you see your starters shooting like that, you ought to walk away," Hall said. "That's a case where you set a trash can on fire and come back the next day. There had to be some electrical device sending out sound waves around that basket."
The only vibrations detectable to the human eye were those caused by the pounding intensity of Georgetown's man-to-man defense. Kentucky got pretty much the same shots it had shot en route to a 29-4 season record. Melvin Turpin got his favorite turnaround jumpers in the lane. Jim Master was taking those perimeter jumpers. Sam Bowie got shots from 15 feet. Dicky Beal popped from the top of the key and drove to the basket.
None of it went in the basket.
Afterward, several of the Wildcats said the defeat was self-inflicted, but Georgetown would have none of that.
"I think we have a pretty good defense, I'd say," Hoya guard Michael Jackson said.
If there was an indication of how things would go in the second half, it appeared in the first 30 seconds.
David Wingate, whose 11 points made him one of two Hoyas in double figures, hit a 15-footer over Melvin Turpin to start the half. When UK next came downcourt, Master's jumper from the perimeter missed the basket by a foot, banging off the backboard. The next 15 minutes pretty much followed that pattern.
A major twist occurred once Georgetown took the lead, 30-29, with 17:08 remaining in the half. Ewing, who played the second half without picking up another foul, tipped in a rebound to put the Hoyas ahead.
Georgetown stayed ahead by holding the ball and forcing Kentucky out of its 2-3 zone defense. The Cats had retreated into a zone in the game's first six minutes.
When the Cats had to play a man-to-man defense, it became apparent why they chose the first strategy. The Hoyas didn't shoot another jumper the rest of the game. Blessed with superior quickness and agility, Georgetown's players drove and back-doored Kentucky out of the tournament.
"We had to play aggressive defense," Bowie said, "but against athletes who were as quick or quicker. We'd play it well for a time. Then, the first mistake we made, they'd take advantage of it."
It added up to a scoring burst that UK is used to administering, not receiving. Georgetown outscored UK 23-2 over the first 16 minutes of the half and 31-11 after intermission.
While Georgetown was scoring the first 12 points of the second half, UK was missing its first 10 shots.
"I kept looking at the scoreboard and saying to myself, that's the same number of points we had at halftime," Bowie said.
Once Bennett broke the ice at the 10:04 mark, UK's point total stalled at 31 until the 3:50 mark. By then, Georgetown was up 45-31 and entertaining thoughts of facing Houston in Monday night's championship game. (Houston beat Virginia 49-47 in overtime in yesterday's other semifinal.)
When Georgetown Coach John Thompson was asked if this was the defense of his dreams, he said: "I'll have to look at the film first."
That's one reel the Cats probably won't re-run. Instead, they might find enjoyment in the first half.
It was then that Kentucky put Ewing in foul trouble and made the Hoyas appear "towerless" to prevent a Kentucky victory.
With UK hitting half its shots (10 of 20), the Cats zipped out to a 4-0 edge and remained in control throughout. Georgetown's much-hyped press did produce turnovers (UK committed five in the half), but not in the abundance some anticipated.
When Ewing picked up two fouls in the first seven minutes, UK appeared in good shape. A further indication were the back-to-back blocks by Bowie and Turpin on one other Georgetown giant, 6-11 Ralph Dalton.
Then, Ewing and Bowie were called for a double-foul while jockeying for rebound position.
"It was one of those situations where the referee didn't know who was pushing more," Bowie said.
The foul was Bowie's first. It was Ewing's third and there was still 8:52 remaining until halftime.
UK widened its lead from 15-8 to 27-15 during the period. Turpin's turnaround in the lane put UK up by 12. No one knew it, but that was the big center's last basket as a Wildcat.
"I didn't change anything, those were my regular shots," Turpin said of his 0-for-6 shooting in the second half. "But every time I turned around, there was someone in my face. I guess that changed me."
Turpin's second half, which led to two-for-11 shooting for the game, cost him a spot in the UK record book. He entered the game as a 59.5 career shooter from the field. Charles Hurt, who had shot 59.3 percent as a Wildcat, held -- and still holds -- the school record. Turpin's final game dropped him to 59.1 percent.
That note drew little attention afterward. Everyone marveled at the Georgetown defense, which had led the nation by holding opponents to 39.4 percent field-goal shooting. UK shot 24.5 percent (13 of 53) yesterday.
"We tried our best," Beal said. "We got beat. It happens sometimes."
As unbelievable as it appears, so does 9.1.