Date story was published: Sunday, January 8, 1984
BATON ROUGE, La. -- The game was the same, but the names were changed to protect a Kentucky team that is no longer quite so innocent.
To borrow a colorful observation by Sam Bowie, the Wildcats had been beaten like stepchildren here in recent years. Yesterday, UK proved it had grown up by throwing down Louisiana State 96-80 in much the same manner that LSU had grown accustomed to beating the Wildcats.
The so-called "Death Dome" got its usual bloodletting. Yesterday, it was LSU that bled.
Kentucky was the team that took
charge early, fought off repeated challenges, controlled the tempo and was rattle-proof.
Among the more obvious reasons the No. 2-rated Wildcats had things going their way were:
* Kenny Walker, whose points (22) and rebounds (12) represented season highs. Defensively, Walker shadowed John Tudor and held LSU's senior swingman scoreless and nearly shotless until the final three minutes.
* Sam Bowie, whose blistered big toe healed sufficiently overnight to allow him to start and play 19 minutes.
* Melvin Turpin, who dominated the center-less Tigers, scoring 35 points and grabbing 13 rebounds (both season highs). In the process, he silenced (at least temporarily) the crowd of 13,574.
"This was my best game ever," Turpin proclaimed. Five days earlier, he bemoaned a six-point, three-rebound performance at Mississippi as his "worst ever."
But, after all, it was an afternoon for making amends.
UK's victory, which raised the team's record to 10-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference, was the Wildcats' first here in four seasons.
"This Kentucky team possesses something that not having in the past has hurt them . . . poise," LSU Coach Dale Brown said. "They have the most poise of any team he (UK Coach Joe Hall) has brought here.
"Also, they are the best basketball team we've played against, period. They simply beat us."
UK had lost in five of its last six trips here, but the Wildcats set the tone early for a different outcome yesterday. UK hit its first five shots, grabbed an 8-4 lead and never looked back.
Turpin, who got the rare chance to play against a man-to-man defense that didn't collapse around him, scored on the first three possessions. He hit two post-up jumpers, then cut to the foul line for a 15-footer.
On the fourth trip down court, Turpin took a feed, re-directed it back to Roger Harden. The sophomore point guard drilled a jumper.
UK wasn't so perfect the rest of the afternoon, but 57 percent shooting from the field was more than close enough.
"We proved what we had to do on the road," Hall said. "We proved, if we're mentally prepared, what we can do."
No one appeared more mentally ready than Turpin. The 6-foot-11 senior center matched his season-high of 25 points in the first half alone. Working primarily one-on-one against Leonard Mitchell, Turpin hit 10 of 11 shots from the field in the first half.
He missed only one shot in the second half, too, making five of six attempts. His 15 of 17 afternoon from the field represented 88.2 percent shooting. The UK record for shooting percentage in a single game (a minimum of 10 field goals made) is 91.7 percent. Both Rick Robey (in 1975) and Jack Givens (in 1977) made 10 of 11 from the field.
In terms of points, Turpin has done better only once. He scored 42 at Tennessee last season.
"By the third or fourth shot, it started feeling like Tennessee," Turpin said. "What got me ready was when I first came into this place. The fans said some things that really (bleeped) me off.
"This was my last time here. I thought it went pretty nice."
That was a sizable understatement, considering its largest margin of victory against LSU here since 1968.
Turpin's offensive repertoire befitted the best scoring center in college basketball, which was how he was described by teammates and Hall. He posted up low and hit short turnaround shots. He flashed into the lane and swished off- balanced jumpers. He hit from the foul line and the baseline. He tipped in shots left- and right-handed.
"Turpin was sensational," Brown said. "He hit all sorts of shots from all sorts of angles. He was truly an All-American today."
Some onlookers couldn't understand how Turpin could have been held to practically nothing only five days before. Bowie, who played the low post in his first two seasons, saw no mystery in Turpin's sudden onslaught.
"They tried to play Melvin man-to-man without any help," Bowie said with a shrug. "If we find that in the future, you'll see Melvin get another outburst like today."
LSU had planned to play more zone, Mitchell said, but stayed in the man-to- man in an attempt to make the game more wide open.
"I was supposed to front Turpin and get backside help," Mitchell said. ''It wasn't there."
Brown praised Turpin's contributions, but said UK's "supporting cast was better. In the past, we could fluster their guards. Today, we couldn't."
And, unlike previous games here, LSU couldn't pester Turpin, either. The big man from Bryan Station High committed seven turnovers here last year, many coming when he had the ball slapped out of his hands while posting up.
Yesterday, Turpin shot quickly or passed the ball back out. On the occasion when he held it long enough to draw a crowd, he was fouled.
"That hurt me a lot," Mitchell said of the reach-in calls.
"We worked on it hard," Hall said. "We wanted Melvin to shoot or fan it back out."
Despite some foul trouble -- the big forward spot accumulated 14 fouls (four each on Bowie and Bret Bearup, five on Winston Bennett and one on Tom Heitz) -- UK improved its first-half lead to as many as 15 points.
The Cats came into the game holding its opponents to 39.4 percent shooting from the field. LSU shot only 38.5 in the first half and 43.8 for the game. UK allowed the quicker Tigers only seven transition baskets.
The Cats let LSU creep no closer than eight points after intermission. The last time LSU was that close came with 9:23 remaining and UK holding a 64-56 lead.
After a timeout, UK scored six straight points and cruised from there. The final nail-in-the-coffin streak started when Heitz, the fourth power forward used by UK, took a pass from Dicky Beal and was fouled by Mitchell.
The foul was Mitchell's fifth and he exited with 9:14 remaining.
By then, UK had already retreated into the safety of its 1-3-1 zone.
"They deserve to be No. 1 or No. 2 or whatever they are," said point guard Derrick Taylor, who led LSU with 21 points. "When we play up there, it will be a different story."
Taylor said the Tigers would push the ball inside more.
Mitchell couldn't be happy with that possible strategy. When asked to compare Houston's Akeem Olajuwon to Turpin, Mitchell said:
"Olajuwon is one. Kentucky has Bowie and Turpin. That's two."