Date story was published: Thursday, January 8, 1987
Alabama revoked its coach's rule about Kentucky's invincibility at Rupp Arena last night by defeating the Wildcats 69-55.
Not only did Bama beat UK, breaking the Wildcats' 24-game Rupp winning streak, but the Tide tied the arena record for Kentucky's worst loss. Alabama beat UK by 14 (78-64) here on Jan. 12, 1980.
In the pre-season, Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson said it was "against the rules" for Kentucky to lose at Rupp.
After his team's tipoff-to-buzzer victory, Sanderson had a new proclamation.
"This has got to be one of the greatest victories I've ever been associated with," said Sanderson, who began his coaching career in 1960. "I don't have the words in my vocabulary to express how I feel. I don't know if we've ever had a bigger victory."
Alabama, which won its sixth straight to improve to 9-2 overall and 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference, controlled the game throughout.
The Tide outrebounded UK 32-23 and shot 57.7 for the game. The latter was just a tenth of a percentage point lower than the best for a Kentucky opponent this season. Georgia shot 57.8 percent in beating UK in Louisville on Dec. 30.
Alabama center Derrick McKey dominated inside with a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds.
Teammate Jim Farmer added 22, including six straight points in the final minutes to repel Kentucky's last-gasp comeback.
"You've got to do things well to win here," Farmer said. "You've got to shoot well, play good defense and keep the crowd out of the game. And we did that."
Defensively, Alabama held Kentucky to a season low 39.2 percent shooting. The most noticeable defensive work belonged to McKey inside and Mark Gottfried outside. McKey had just two blocks, but his 6-foot-9 presence discouraged UK inside several times.
Gottfried guarded UK freshman flash Rex Chapman for much of the game and held him to nine points.
Richard Madison and freshman Derrick Miller were Kentucky's lone double- figure scorers. Madison had 15. Miller added 14, including a string of 10 straight points in the first half when Kentucky repeatedly closed its game- long deficit to one.
On this night, the veteran Alabama team would not allow UK any closer. The Wildcats fell to 7-3 overall and 1-2 in the SEC.
"Tonight was another one of those days that we shot poorly and like I've said before, we are a very inconsistent team," UK coach Eddie Sutton said. "Some nights we're going to be up and some nights we're going to be down.
"We shot poorly tonight and you can't hit that poorly and expect to win a lot of ball games. We could seem to make a run at them and they'd hit when they needed to and we missed a lot of big opportunities."
The first half was an uphill climb for Kentucky. After falling behind 4-0 on two post-up baskets, the Cats came within a point of the summit six times in the first half.
With McKey playing a superb first-half (15 points), Alabama would never share the lead.
"What we wanted to do was spread the floor so their guards couldn't help so much when he got the ball inside," McKey said. "That plus maybe I outquicked him (UK center Rob Lock)."
Lock, who had earlier outplayed Louisville's Pervis Ellison and Auburn's Jeff Moore, came away impressed. "McKey is the best player by far," Lock said.
Cold shooting hampered Kentucky early. The Cats missed nine of their first 14 shots against Bama's tight man-to-man.
UK's shooting woes were compounded by Gottfried's holding Chapman to six first-half points.
"I'd see (Chapman) shooting three-pointers from outer space against Louisville," said Gottfried, who relished the challenge of guarding Chapman. "If I hadn't gotten Chapman, I was going to ask for him. It was a pride factor. Look, I'm a fifth-year senior. He's a freshman. You don't want a rookie to come in a beat you.
"I know he's bigger than me. I know he's better than me. But I've got four years on him and I think it showed at times. I think he got rattled a little. As the game progressed, he wasn't as aggressive with the ball as I've seen him."
Chapman bristled at talk of being "rattled," but the UK freshman admitted he may have been less aggressive than usual. But there was a good reason for that, Chapman said.
"They controlled the tempo," Chapman said. "They were taking away the drive and making you shoot outside shots. You can't be too aggressive jumping up and shooting."
UK's other freshman, Miller, compensated for awhile.
Miller, who entered the half with 15:51 remaining, scored 10 straight points in one stretch and had 12 of his 14 points in the first half. A Miller three-pointer got UK within 20-19 with 7:17 remaining.
UK trailed 31-29 at halftime.
"We felt all right at halftime," Ed Davender said. "We were only a bucket or two away. Then they outplayed us the first five minutes of the second half."
Alabama got six baskets from within five feet early in the second half and extended its lead to 43-38 when a TV timeout was called at 15:19.
McKey sparked the 12-6 Bama run in the half's first four minutes by blocking Davender's layup attempt on the half's first shot.
"That let me know not to go down there anymore," Davender said of the rejection.
Terry Coner, back from pre-season knee surgery, raced to a fast-break 5- footer off the block.
Then Ansley took a fast-break pass for a layup. McKey got a layup on a pick-and-roll pass from Farmer.
After Farmer pulled up for a 15-footer, Ansley and McKey beat the Cats downcourt for early offense layups.
UK's only answer was three-pointers from James Blackmon and Chapman.
UK got the lead down to 43-38, but the mini-rally stalled when Irv Thomas missed a 8-foot bank shot.
Bama steadied and when Farmer hit a three-pointer over a UK zone the lead was 50-40 with 12 minutes remaining.
UK mounted a charge with minutes left.
The crowd got a rare charge when Chapman lobbed a fast-break pass to Blackmon. The two-handed slam cut the lead to 54-46 with nine minutes left.
"The momentum really went to their favor after that alley-oop and dunk," Gottfried said. "We have a lot of experience. I think it showed every time the crowd tried to get back in the game."
After Blackmon's dunk, Farmer drove and hit the shot while being fouled by Miller. The three-point play pushed Alabama ahead 59-50 with 7:15 remaining.
Kentucky's final charge cut the deficit to 59-53 with 5:52 remaining.
But the Cats didn't score again until Lock made a layup with 30 seconds remaining. The drought began when Thomas was called for an illegal pick. Then Chapman missed a jumper, Miller a three-pointer and Davender another three- pointer.
Meanwhile, Farmer had hit six straight points to push the margin to 65-53 with just two minutes left.
By then, only the margin remained in doubt.
"Coach Sutton had said Alabama was the team in the league, but I hadn't seen them so I didn't believe him," Miller said. "He was right. Alabama's got plenty of guns. And they're all loaded."