Elston Turner's 40-point game in Rupp an indelible memory

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 20, 2014 

Elston Turner plays professionally in Italy. He lives in a city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea.

So Turner is far removed in distance as well as time from when he made Kentucky basketball history. But that history is not far from him.

"I will remember that game for the rest of my life," he said in an email message Sunday.

On Jan. 12, 2013, Turner became only the third opponent to score 40 points in Rupp Arena. His sudden and brilliant starburst led Texas A&M to an 83-71 victory over Kentucky. It comes to mind with A&M returning to Rupp Arena Tuesday night.

Turner joined David Robinson (45 points) and Chris Jackson (41 points) as the only opponents to score 40 points in Rupp Arena, which opened in 1976. No Texas A&M player had scored 40 points in a game since Don Marbury did against Baylor in 1985.

"I think I missed more shots in warm-ups than in the real game," Turner said in the email.

Counting two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws, he missed five of 25 shots. That's fewer than Robinson (six) and Jackson (17) missed in their explosions of scoring in Rupp Arena.

Turner, who was Texas A&M's leading scorer in the 2012-13 and 2011-12 seasons, was not stunned by his hot shooting.

"I was already confident going into that game knowing that I was going to have freshmen guarding me the whole game," he said.

Nor did the Rupp Arena setting unnerve Turner. As the son of an NBA assistant coach, also named Elston Turner, he had been in plenty of iconic arenas.

"A lot of players often get overwhelmed when they play in a historically-known basketball arena," he said. "I just took that as an opportunity that not a lot of players get."

UK assigned freshman Alex Poythress to guard Turner as the game began. It was a decision Coach John Calipari attributed to his assistants and openly regretted.

"Most of the players on last year's team were freshmen, so, no, it did not surprise me," Turner said. "I think my advantage was more my experience than anything else."

Pride also was a factor.

"I came into that game with a mind-set that I wasn't going to let a freshman guard me," he said.

Mission accomplished. As shot after shot went in, Kentucky players slumped their shoulders or held out their arms as if to gesture, what-can-we-do-with-this-guy?

Afterward, Calipari said that a hot start gave Turner "beer muscles." That is to say he became intoxicated with can-do bravado.

Now, as the leading scorer (16.7 ppg) for the Italian team Victoria Libertas Pesaro, Turner can exercise wine muscles.

"A lot of people speak some English, as surprising as it seems," he said of life in Italy. "I am also learning a lot of Italian, as well.

"The food and wine are the best part of living here."

Lighting up Rupp

Opponents to score 40 points against UK in Rupp Arena:

Player, team Date FG 3-PT FT Pts
David Robinson, NavyJan. 25, 1987 17-22 0-0 11-12 45
Chris Jackson, LSUFeb. 15, 199013-29 7-17 8-9 41
Elston Turner, Texas A&MJan. 12, 201314-19 6-10 6-6 40

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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