Date story was published: Friday, November 29, 1985
With Eddie Sutton replacing the retired Joe B. Hall, change has been the byword for Kentucky basketball this young season.
The weeklong Hawaiian trip is evidence of that. Hall preferred to stay close to home. Sutton is already thinking out loud about returning here within two seasons.
The on-court difference has been most evident in the guard play. The Wildcat backcourt is applying more defensive pressure and free-lancing more on offense.
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But once here, some 5,000 miles from home and only two games into the Sutton era, the Wildcats were instructed to return to a traditional value. Get the ball to Kenny "Sky" Walker, they were told.
The devastating result was vintage Walker with the unmistakable Sutton touch still there as Kentucky routed the University of Hawaii 98-65 here Wednesday night.
Walker, who had 35 points in the Wildcats' first two games, nearly matched that with 33 points against Hawaii.
Kentucky, now 3-0, also continued to get inspired defense from its guards. The Cats got 11 steals (all but two by the first four guards) and forced 17 turnovers.
"Coach Sutton told us before the game Kenny needed more shots tonight," said UK guard Leroy Byrd, himself an example of what change can do to a player. "He told us to look for Kenny first to see what he could do. Nine out of 10 times, he'll put it in the basket."
Walker wasn't that efficient against Hawaii, but he was close. He made nine of 12 shots en route to a 22-point first half.
Walker cooled off in the second half, making just three of nine shots. He left the game with 8:02 remaining because of leg cramps. The early exit probably cost Walker a personal scoring record. He finished three points shy of matching his career high (36 against Kansas last season).
"Sometimes the way our guards are playing is not completely disciplined," Sutton said. "When we don't have it (an early-offense opportunity), we've got to establish the half-court game. That's when we've got to get the ball in Kenny's hands at least once. I told the players he'll get the ball back out to them if he's covered and they'll get their points that way. That's what I tried to establish."
Hawaii was not the only opponent on Sutton's mind when he instructed his guards to look more often for Walker. The new UK coach said he would copy Hall's Walker-first philosophy of a year ago as the Wildcats' schedule toughens. After returning to Lexington Saturday morning, Kentucky will begin preparing for home games Tuesday night against Cincinnati and Saturday against Indiana.
"We will try to do some of the same things," Sutton said. "Maybe not the identical plays for Kenny, but some special scoring plays for him."
Sutton was unhappy with the fact that Walker had taken just 15 shots, fourth on the team and only one more than still-learning sophomore Cedric Jenkins, in Kentucky's first two games. Another statistic that supported the idea of moving the ball to Walker was that he had made all but two of his shots.
Hawaii proved the perfect foil for Walker. The Rainbows started three guards and only one player taller than 6-foot-4. That player, a 6-8 junior college transfer with a history of knee problems, slow-footed Rick Domonkos, guarded Walker most of the night.
Basically, Walker did what he wanted. He rolled into the lane repeatedly for easy jump shots, layups and turnarounds. UK's dominance inside was reflected in its 17 first-half shots from inside the lane. Hawaii had only eight in the same period.
"Tonight was not a true indication of how I'll be played this season," Walker said. "They played man-to-man pretty much all the way and the man stayed behind me. It surprised me. It's something I haven't seen that often. I figured they'd play some kind of trick defense and help out."
Domonkos said the idea was to prevent slam dunks that might inspire a UK rout. As it was, the Rainbows held Walker to two dunks, but he still filled it up from 10 feet in.
"No coach or player likes to admit intimidation but that was what it was," Hawaii coach Frank Arnold said. "None of our players had played against a top 10 team before. They read magazines and knew more about Walker than I did. No way you can be competitive when you're awed."
As was the case in the 32-turnover bonanza against Chaminade Tuesday, pressure by Kentucky's guards paid big dividends. Hawaii had 11 first-half turnovers as UK rolled up a 49-31 edge at intermission. The Cats coasted from there, increasing their second-half lead to as much as 35 points four times.
In a three-minute span of the first half, both Ed Davender and James Blackmon turned steals into points as UK widened a 10-point lead to 18. Davender, who along with Roger Harden had three steals for the game, picked Jerald Wrightsil clean and was fouled on the drive. His two free throws made it 27-15.
Blackmon merely picked up a loose ball that a harried Keith Turner failed to dribble. Blackmon's driving layup made it 37-19 with 5:20 remaining.
"They never could get themselves situated," Davender said of Hawaii. "It got to the point where they couldn't do anything about it (UK's defensive pressure)."
Hawaii took its frustration out on the basket. Three times in the first half the Rainbows dislodged the collapsible rim from its spring-loaded base. Play was halted a fourth time when the rim was found bent slightly forward.
Andre Morgan, a junior guard from Anderson, Ind., engaged the spring release when he ricocheted an attempted two-hand slam off the rim at the 16:46 mark.
Sutton wanted a technical foul, arguing in vain that Morgan hung on the rim.
"The ref said he (Morgan) didn't grab it," Sutton said. "He said he (Morgan) knocked it down with his elbow.
Morgan brought the rim down again when he successfully dunked with 9:57 remaining.
The game was stopped again at 6:48 when the Hawaii players asked that the rim be made level.
A fourth halt in play occurred when Rob Lock and Domonkos crashed into the rim on a fast-break dunk attempt at the 4:37 mark.
Mercifully, the rim was replaced at halftime with a non-collapsible model. No further damage was done.
Thereafter, only the Hawaii coach's feelings were hurt.
"I think the worst part was we had 7,000 people here (actually 6,342) for the first time in I don't know how long and we were an embarrassment to basketball," Arnold said. "I don't know how many times I've been beat by 30, and I don't know many basketball teams I've been associated with that weren't the least bit competitive."
The UK basketball game scheduled for Jan. 2 at Auburn has been rescheduled for Jan. 6. UK officials said Auburn requested the change because the school's football team will play on Jan. 1 in the Cotton Bowl. Auburn officials said the change would make it easier for the teams' fans to attend both games.