Date story was published: Sunday, February 22, 1987
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Kentucky went looking for revenge, but left instead with a repeat defeat. Poor shooting and Nikita Wilson, two factors in an embarrassing loss to Louisiana State last month, once more were the chief reasons.
UK again saved its worst shooting for LSU. The Wildcats made just 35.2 percent of its shots yesterday. Only the 25 percent performance in Lexington last month against LSU has been worse this season. Particularly damaging was a 13-minute span in which Kentucky scored but six points.
That drought set up Wilson, who again waited until after halftime to get in gear. As in Lexington, the LSU center scored 16 second-half points. Instead of propelling his team toward a landmark victory such as the 76-41 rout of routs last month, Wilson's low-post outburst yesterday merely put LSU in position for a victory.
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This time the final score was 65-52, but UK found little consolation in that.
"It's extremely disappointing," Rob Lock said. "We wanted to beat them as badly as we did Louisville (85-51). To lose again is disheartening. Even though it was closer than it was at home, we wanted to come away with a victory. It's hard to take."
Kentucky fell to 16-8 overall and 9-7 in the Southeastern Conference. The latter dropped UK back into a third-place tie with Georgia, which beat Mississippi last night. UK and Georgia will break the tie Wednesday in Athens.
For LSU, now 17-12 and 7-9, the game continued a weekend to remember.
On Friday, a basketball man, former LSU player-turned television commentator Joe Dean, was named the school's athletic director. In typical overstated flourish, LSU coach Dale Brown was ecstatic. "It's a great day for LSU, for the state, for the country, for the world," Brown said Friday. ''There's not a better man on any planet."
Brown attached no cosmic significance to yesterday's victory, but it was historic. When added to the 35-point victory in Lexington, it made for an unprecedented sweep of Kentucky. Never before had an SEC team swept UK by a total of 48 points. The three 1979 defeats to Tennessee by a combined 34 points had been the record.
For all that, Kentucky had a chance to win yesterday down the stretch. Ed Davender's only basket on a 1-for-7 afternoon brought the Cats to within 56-50 with 2:15 left. LSU had led by 11 just three minutes earlier.
In the growing uneasiness of Assembly Center, freshman Fess Irvin rushed upcourt and launched a baseline jumper. UK couldn't have asked for more. Not even 10 seconds of the shot clock had been used. Irvin was a 33.1-percent shooter this season. He hadn't taken a shot all day. It swished.
The cruelest blow, however, came with 1:38 left and UK again trailing by just six (58-52). Richard Madison fouled Oliver Brown, a 61.5 percent free- thrower this season.
Brown's first shot hit hard off the backboard. "A hellacious brick," Madison called it. It banked into the basket. When it did, Kentucky coach Eddie Sutton got off his seat, turned his back on the offending shot and walked the length of the bench.
"Oh yeah, I've been working on that shot," Brown joked afterward. "I was wondering what the backboard was up there for."
The senior forward made the second shot in the conventional manner, beginning a 7-for-10 free-throw string for LSU down the stretch.
It was Brown's ricochet free throw that stuck in the mind. "That's the first time I've seen that this year," Sutton said. "He must have had his buckeye with him."
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For much of the first half, the Cats didn't appear to need a good-luck charm. The Cats defended well against the Wilsons, Anthony and Nikita. Anthony scored eight hard-earned points and finished with just 12. Nikita had but six in the half.
UK worked the offensive board hard, too. The Cats had four baskets off tip- ins in the half. Tips by Rex Chapman, who led all scorers with 24, and Lock were part of a 14-0 run that produced a 21-12 lead at the 7:52 mark.
"A lot of the things we planned to do we did," Madison said. "We tried to take the crowd out of it. We crashed the boards (10 offensive rebounds in the half)."
When Lock tipped in another shot with 5:18 left in the half, UK's lead was 23-16.
"We were carrying out our game plan extremely well," Sutton said.
LSU claimed it remained calm. "A team on the road usually gets one run at you," Oliver Brown said. "When they had their run early and we got back in the game, I felt pretty good."
LSU got back quickly. Still leading 23-16, Madison was stripped of the ball while going up for a shot off a rebound. The UK camp thought he was fouled. But LSU came down and got a three-pointer from Anthony Wilson.
After a Davender miss, Bernard Woodside's only three-pointer of the day made it 23-22.
Meanwhile and thereafter, Kentucky went dry. From the 5:18 mark to 12:18 of the second half, the Cats scored six points. "We got stagnant," Sutton said. ''It was more a case of poor executing on offense than their defense. It was during that time we let the game slip away."
With 13:41 left in the game, Sutton tried a lineup of subs Derrick Miller, Paul Andrews, Cedric Jenkins and Irv Thomas with Chapman. The group got only a three-pointer from Miller in two minutes before Sutton went back to his regulars.
"I was searching for a lineup to play solid defense and at the same time give us some offensive punch," Sutton said. "I inserted Derrick thinking he might have a hot hand."
UK's offensive rebounding, so helpful in the first half, disappeared. The Cats didn't get a rebound basket in the second half.
Lock's foul trouble contributed to the problem. He had seven points and five rebounds in a solid first half. "He probably played as well as he has since I've been at Kentucky," Sutton said.
But two fouls in the second half's first five minutes, his third and fourth of the game, put a harness on Lock. The third foul came in a loose-ball scramble with 17:53 left. "I was going for a loose ball and the other guy got there first," Lock said. "It was either a no-call or a foul on me."
Lock's fourth foul came at the 14:50 mark when he set an illegal pick for Chapman. "A legitimate call," the UK center said. "I had turned to get (screen) Rex's man and Rex had already made his move."
Saddled with four fouls, Lock was in no position to guard Nikita Wilson. ''I couldn't do anything really aggressive," Lock said. "He started scoring and I couldn't do anything about it."
The LSU center's turnaround put the Tigers ahead for good at 33-32 with 15:06 left.
Five minutes later, with LSU leading 40-36, Wilson scored eight points in a 12-5 run that increased the lead to 52-41.
"They were playing behind me and that's the biggest sin on the low post," Wilson said. "But that's what they were doing."
On a day that included Oliver Brown's banked free throw and Dale Brown's solar system-sized happiness, Kentucky couldn't avoid another loss to LSU.