Date story was published: Sunday, February 26, 1984
ATHENS, Ga. -- For a second there, it looked like overtime and five more minutes of anything can happen.
As Richard Corhen's shot from half-court -- as improbable as it was desperate -- zeroed in on the rim, all eyes were glued to its trajectory.
The Kentucky coaches, powerless with a 66-64 lead hanging in the balance, gazed with a glazed look of amazement.
Corhen, who had stolen UK's inbounds pass with a single tick left on the clock, believed in miracles.
"When I let it go, I thought it was good," the Georgia center said of his two-handed flip from 45 feet.
So, too, did Dicky Beal, whose luck has been mostly bad for four years.
"To be honest, Corhen's shot should have been good," Beal said, ''especially when it hit the rim and stayed there for a second."
But, yesterday afternoon, the shot bounced over the backboard, allowing Kentucky's two-point victory if not five more minutes of excitement.
Beal, who had been dragged to the floor on the inbounds play, could only pick himself up . . . and wonder if his fortune is finally beginning to run good.
In raw numbers, Beal's contributions were 37 minutes, 14 points and nine assists. His intangibles, so important against a swarming Georgia team, were incalculable.
"I don't think Dicky knows how much he means to us," said Kenny Walker. ''It's a different game when he's in there."
Excepting Georgia partisans, what fan of basketball would want anything different than yesterday's Southeastern Conference thriller here?
Unlike in Lexington last month, when Georgia disappeared in a 35.3 percent shooting performance, the Bulldogs came out hot yesterday. Georgia made its first seven shots. When the Bulldogs finally missed, James Banks put in the rebound. Banks' basket pushed Georgia up by 10 (16-6) in the first four minutes. And, when Gerald Crosby, who led all scorers with 20 points, dropped in jumpers on Georgia's next two possessions, the Bulldogs had 10 baskets in 10 trips down the court.
Late in that run, UK shifted out of its man-to-man and into a 1-3-1 zone. ''We had to change the tempo," UK Coach Joe Hall said of the move. "They were hitting so well. We wanted to make them look at some other defense."
Thereafter, with Georgia connecting on just eight of its last 22 shots in the half, UK got back into the game. Actually, the Cats reeled off 10 straight points, the final four coming on a Beal layup off the fast break and his feed to Sam Bowie for a dunk, to tie the game at 20-20.
From there, the two teams played on even terms. There were 18 ties and seven lead changes.
"A great game," said UK assistant coach Jim Hatfield. "Whatever we threw at them, they adjusted and whatever they threw at us, we adjusted."
UK got double-figure scoring from all five starters. Melvin Turpin led the way with 18 points. Jim Master, hitting six of 10 shots from outside, added 12 points. Walker and Bowie chipped in with 10 each, and Beal had 14.
Such a balanced attack helped the Cats keep pace with a Georgia team that surprised most observers -- but not the UK camp -- by running with the Cats.
In Lexington last month, the Bulldogs blamed having to run with UK, in an effort to catch up, for their 64-40 loss. Yesterday the Bulldogs attempted to run from the start and let UK worry about catching up.
"We absolutely told the players Georgia would run," Hall said. When asked why, he said: "Because they're at home."
It is the style of play Georgia likes normally and yesterday the Bulldogs went with it.
"When they missed a shot, we wanted to run and beat them downcourt," said Vern Fleming, who combined with fellow guard Gerald Crosby for 36 points. "We wanted to run. We didn't want them to run. The difference today was we kind of slowed their break."
After the opening seven minutes, neither team led by more than six.
When Donald Hartry hit a jumper with 4:08 to play, the game had its 18th tie (at 62-all), setting the stage for a final four minutes that lacked scoring (the two teams combined for only six points) but not excitement.
Turpin's spinning move and short bank shot put UK head 64-62 with 3:50 remaining.
The lead looked safe when Beal made both ends of a one-and-one with 1:05 remaining. Those two free throws put UK ahead 66-62.
Then, it all began to unravel as the Cats tried to protect their lead with a delay game.
Although Georgia kept missing shots (the Bulldogs made only 38.2 percent of their second-half shots), UK kept the game within reach by not hitting free throws. Bowie missed the front end of two one-and-ones.
And, after Georgia's Joe Ward hit a baseline jumper, Georgia's only points in the final four minutes, the Bulldogs trailed only 66-64.
Georgia's press hadn't bothered UK. But, after Ward's basket, the Bulldogs nearly got the ball back when Beal lost his dribble under pressure. After a wild scramble Fleming covered the ball but he was lying over the baseline: UK ball.
The Dogs fouled Walker on the ensuing inbounds play. When Walker missed the front end of the one-and-one, Georgia was still alive.
"Any one would have put it away," Hall said of the missed free throws. ''It certainly was a good game for the spectators."
And it got better.
After Walker's miss, Georgia worked the ball upcourt. In an effort to find an opening for a shot, Fleming was tied up by Beal and a jump ball was called. It was UK's turn for possession.
With the ball and one second from victory, UK called time. The strategy for the inbounds play at midcourt was simple. "We just wanted to get the ball to the other end of the court," Beal said. "And, if nobody was open, we could always throw it up for Sam. There aren't many who can jump with him."
Walker, who was throwing in the ball, took the second option when he couldn't find anyone open downcourt.
"I saw their eyes meet," said Corhen, who left his man (Turpin) and jumped for the pass. "We figured they'd pitch it to Bowie anyway."
Rather than risk a foul -- "I didn't want to do anything stupid, like go over his back," Bowie said -- Bowie did not contest Corhen for the ball. Corhen grabbed the pass and let fly.
Then everyone waited.
"I couldn't believe the change of events," Hall said. "All we had to do was get the ball into a player's hands."
As the UK players trotted off the floor after the game, Beal said, they talked about nothing but how close Corhen's shot came to going in.
Beal played 37 pain-free minutes, giving further testimony that his ailing knee, groin and ankle are fine.
"No aches and pains at all," Beal said before quickly rapping his knuckles against his wooden locker. "Knock on wood." * * *
Yesterday's victory improved UK's record to 21-3 overall and 12-3 in the SEC. The Cats lead the conference by two full games with three remaining after Auburn's 81-80 loss at Louisiana State yesterday. UK can clinch no worse than a tie for its 35th SEC crown with a victory on Monday night at Tennessee. Georgia fell to 14-11 and 6-10 in the league.