Date story was published: Friday, March 2, 1984
Kentucky took the weight room term of "no pain, no gain" and applied in to the basketball court last night, bench-pressing Mississippi 76-57 and lifting the Southeastern Conference championship.
Combined with Vanderbilt's 74-68 victory over Louisiana State, UK clinched its 35th SEC title.
The pain, of course, came in the Wildcats' practices earlier this week when Coach Joe Hall drilled the team in what Sam Bowie called "boot camp" fashion.
Never miss a local story.
The gain came last night as UK played Charles Atlas -- three days after Tennessee kicked sand in the Cats' faces -- and manhandled the freshmen-dominated Rebels.
No one flexed more muscle than Bowie. The 7-foot-1 senior played above the rim -- and above the Rebels -- all night. He finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds before leaving to a standing ovation with 3:03 to play.
"If we'd known he had 19 rebounds, we would have put Sam in and let him get a double," Hall said afterward.
Bowie's play, which helped the Cats roll up a 46-25 rebounding edge, helped propel UK to its 22nd victory in 26 games. The Cats improved to 13-4 in the SEC.
Louisiana State, which was 11-5 going into last night's game at Vanderbilt, had needed a victory last night and another one against UK here on Saturday to share the title.
Ole Miss, which fell to 8-17 overall and 3-14 in the league, trailed from start to finish. UK got off to an 8-0 lead and after a brief Rebel rally the Cats pulled steadily away.
"It was a case of a better ballclub playing a young team," Mississippi Coach Lee Hunt said. "It certainly showed."
Hunt, whose 10-man team includes five freshmen and one sophomore, then read off the statistics to the press:
* UK's 46-25 edge on the boards.
* UK's better shooting (50 percent to Ole Miss' 41.8).
* UK's 10 steals.
"When that takes place," Hunt concluded, "you don't have a chance. We had been playing better (the Rebels upset Auburn on Monday). Give Kentucky the credit."
The Cats gave their coach the credit. Whether they enjoyed the grueling practices this week or not, the players couldn't deny the benefits.
"If that's what Coach Hall's got to do, then I'm glad he did it," Bowie said. "There was no room for boys on the court in those practices. It definitely turned the team around."
With Bowie going for 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, the Cats took control.
Playing a man-to-man defense much of the half, Kentucky ruled the backboards and the passing lanes like they haven't in weeks. The Cats rolled up a 22-9 rebounding edge in the first 20 minutes.
UK also picked up the kind of turnovers that it had been guilty of in recent games.
Ole Miss had 15 turnovers in the game. Among them were an over-and-back and back-to-back steals by Dicky Beal early in the game that may have set a tone.
On the first, Beal stripped the ball from Andre Laird as the Rebel freshman went up for jumper. Beal quickly fired a lead pass to Bowie for a fastbreak slam.
On the next trip downcourt, Beal reached behind Eric Laird to tap away his dribble. The UK fastbreak concluded with a Kenny Walker slam at the other end.
The two plays opened up a 14-4 UK lead. Ole Miss got no closer than six thereafter.
UK's more aggressive style also resulted in two minor injuries to Ole Miss players. Freshman forward Bruce Tranbarger bruised a knee in the first half. Eric Laird, who led the Rebels with 15 points, had the funny bone on his right (shooting) arm banged against the floor early.
Both players returned to the fray, but neither could make the difference.
"I didn't think Kentucky was that much more aggressive," Eric Laird said, comparing the Cats' effort to UK's 68-55 victory last month in Oxford, Miss. ''The key was we weren't as aggressive."
According to Eric Laird, the Rebels' old man as a junior, his teammates weren't more timid because of Rupp Arena's imposing size.
"We just weren't ready to play and Bowie had a lot to do with it," Eric Laird said. "It's kind of frustrating to jump as high as you can and you can't get the ball."