A courtside seat for UK's best and worst

Herald-Leader Staff WriterDecember 23, 2009 

Jerry Tipton, who was inducted into the United States Basketball Writers Association's Hall of Fame in 2005, is in his 29th year covering University of Kentucky basketball for the Herald-Leader. Here are his most memorable moments from UK's 714 wins during the time he's covered the Cats:

Best start to a season

UK began the Final Four season of 1983-84 by playing Louisville, Indiana and Kansas in the first three games.

Kentucky won all three by an average margin of 16 points. All other starts to UK seasons — and, perhaps, any other program's seasons — pale by comparison.

Memorable coaching moves

1. Fearful of an unrecruited Kentuckian beating UK, Joe B. Hall slapped a box-and-one on 6-foot freshman Phil Cox of Vanderbilt in Rupp Arena in 1982. UK won 67-58.

2. After the Cats won at Georgia in overtime in 1999, a student reporter asked UK Coach Tubby Smith whether his embattled successor, longtime friend Ron Jirsa, had made a bonehead move that gave Kentucky the win. Smith belittled the student, then moved to the next question. Clearly distracted while answering that question, Smith turned back to the student, apologized and asked him to repeat the question.

3. After his team lost a late lead against UK in the Rupp Arena-based 1982 SEC Tournament, Mississippi Coach Bob Weltlich cried while delivering a profanity-filled tirade in his post-game news conference. Team fouls: 19 for UK, 38 for Ole Miss.

Best comebacks

1. UK 99, LSU 95 (1993-94). The Cats trailed by 31 with less than 16 minutes remaining at LSU. The Mardi Gras Miracle ensued thanks to UK's 12-for-23 three-point shooting in the second half.

2. UK 86, Duke 84 (1997-98). UK trailed by 17 with less than 10 minutes left in the 1998 South Regional finals. Three-pointers by Cameron Mills and Scott Padgett capped the comeback. Take that, Christian Laettner!

3. UK 91, Tennessee 84, OT (1986-87). UK trailed by 10 with 1:13 left in regulation at Rupp. The comeback was aided when Vols star Tony White fouled out on a questionable charging call with 32 seconds left in regulation.

Oh, those referees

1. 2001 SEC Tournament game between UK and Arkansas in Nashville. No harm, no foul ruled in the first half as Arkansas used its "40 minutes of hell" pressure to build a 42-32 lead at intermission. UK fans screamed bloody murder as the referees called 10 fouls on Arkansas and eight on UK. Grim-faced SEC supervisor of officials John Guthrie walked with purpose off the court to meet with the referees at halftime. Second half saw no ticky-tack foul go unpunished. The referees called 22 fouls on Arkansas and eight on UK. Kentucky won 87-78. UK shot 30-for-40 from the line. Arkansas made 19 of 21 free throws.

2. The Byron Dinkins game, Dec. 19, 1987. Beaten on a cut to the basket, Ed Davender pushed Dinkins out of bounds with three seconds left rather than give up the go-ahead score. A walking call on Dinkins caused Charlotte Coach Jeff Mullins to throw his glasses onto the court. UK won 84-81.

3. If not rabbit-eared, then eagle-eyed Doug Shows slaps two technicals on Scott Padgett at Tennessee. Padgett's crime? Shows did not like the looks he gave him.

Best performances

1. Jodie Meeks. He broke Dan Issel's 39-year-old school record for points in a game by scoring 54 at Tennessee on Jan. 13, 2009. Meeks made 15 of 22 shots (10 of 15 three-point attempts).

2. Tayshaun Prince. He shut up those who wondered whether he could lead UK to an important victory by scoring 41 points in an 87-82 victory over Tulsa in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. He made 14 of 21 shots, including six of eight three-point attempts.

3. Rex Chapman. He made five three-pointers and scored 26 points in a rousing freshman coming-out party as UK won 85-51 at Louisville in the famous Big Brother-Little Brother game on Dec. 27, 1986.

Best performances by opponents

1. Dontae Jones, Mississippi State. Rick Pitino lost only one SEC Tournament game, and his 1995-96 national championship team lost only twice. Jones gets credit on both scores. He led Mississippi State to an 84-73 victory over UK in the SEC Tournament finals. He scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a performance nearly as spectacular as the 36 hours of classwork he passed one summer to become eligible.

2. David Robinson, Navy. He made 17 of 22 shots and 11 of 12 free throws in scoring 45 points for Navy at UK on Jan. 25, 1987. He also grabbed 14 rebounds.

3. Shaquille O'Neal. In five games against UK, he averaged 21.8 points and 17.6 rebounds. One game, Pitino breathed life in the old joke. He devised a box-and-one with the box on O'Neal. In a 107-88 LSU win in 1991, O'Neal had 33 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks.

Memorable shots

1. Christian Laettner. Does anything else need to be said at this point?

2. Kenny Walker. His rushed jumper bounced high off the rim and fell in at the buzzer to give UK a 51-49 victory over Auburn in the 1984 SEC Tournament finals.

3. Tayshaun Prince. He made five straight three-pointers to start UK toward a 79-59 victory over North Carolina on Dec. 8, 2001.

Another child shall lead

At least until John Wall decides otherwise, freshman Chris Mills will own the only triple-double in UK basketball history. In a game played in Freedom Hall, Mills had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Austin Peay on Dec. 27, 1988. Mills flirted with a quadruple-double, committing six turnovers.

Most memorable games

1. Duke 104, UK 103, OT (1991-92). Christian Laettner's shot ended what might be the greatest game in college basketball history.

2. UK 95, Arkansas 93, OT (1994-95). This 1995 SEC Tournament finals featured Rodrick Rhodes' emotional meltdown after missing two free throws at the end of regulation.

3. Georgetown 53, UK 40 (1983-84). "Three for 33" became a UK basketball catchphrase after the Cats missed 30 shots in the second half of this 1984 Final Four semifinals.

Worst finish to a season

UK lost to South Carolina 72-66 on Senior Day, 1997. When the referees did not fall for the old fake-the-inbounds-defender-into-a-charge trick, UK Coach Rick Pitino got ejected for protesting. He cursed referee Andre Patillo before leaving the floor. His pique continued after the game as Pitino cancelled a planned post-game awards ceremony.

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