Date story was published: Thursday, January 15, 1987
Kentucky showed both its personalities last night. The good did just enough to outweigh the bad and give the Wildcats a 67-62 victory over Florida.
One of the best defensive efforts so far this season carried Kentucky to a 63-40 lead with 6:44 remaining. Until that time, UK had frustrated Florida throughout and limited the high-scoring Gators (90.9 ppg) to 40 hard-earned points in 35 minutes.
A laugher got serious when Florida threw a 17-0 scare at the Wildcats. The run, which was fueled by Florida's trapping defense and UK's pitiful free- throw shooting, cut the game-long lead to 63-57 with 2:21 remaining.
With a six-point lead to protect, UK got nothing accomplished. Ed Davender got caught in a trap and was called for charging. It was one of eight UK turnovers in the final six minutes.
"I got caught by surprise a couple times," Davender said of the traps. "I'm every bit of 6-2 and they had 6-5 and 6-6 guys on me. If you tried to cut between, you'd get called for charging. That didn't leave me with too many options."
On the next possession, Rex Chapman was trapped and threw the ball cross- court. To no one.
"I thought they panicked," Florida's Andrew Moten said. "They kept turning the ball over to us. I thought they were going to give it to us."
If Florida had hit one or two of the six three-pointers it flung at the basket in the next 90 seconds, the game might have gotten away.
Why the switch? For one thing, Kentucky stopped playing offense. The Cats took only three shots in the final 8:03, choosing instead to milk the 45- second shot clock.
"We got caught with the time down a few times and had to take some bad shots," Richard Madison said.
After James Blackmon hit a three-pointer with 8:03 remaining to give UK a 60-40 lead, the Cats didn't attempt another shot until Irv Thomas drove the baseline six minutes later. Thomas' layup was deflected and Rob Lock came up short with a three-footer on the rebound.
"That was indicative of how we played during that time," Lock said. "A three-footer and I miss. I couldn't have picked a worse time."
UK made only one basket in the final eight minutes. Davender, who led Kentucky with 16 points and four assists, had to rebound Chapman's missed free throw and slip the ball in to get that basket.
Davender's basket came with 22 seconds remaining and temporarily stopped the on-rushing Gators. It gave UK a 65-57 lead and came after Florida's multiple misses from three-point territory.
After the Davender basket, Vernon Maxwell hit two free throws (Rob Lock was called for blocking) with 15 seconds remaining.
UK called time and attempted a home-run pass over the pressing Gators.
Chapman's pass came up short and Florida freshman Melvin Jones intercepted.
Jones threw to Maxwell, who hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 65-62 with 10 seconds left.
Davender was fouled immediately on the inbounds and missed the front end of a one-and-one. UK missed the front end of seven bonus situations in the final eight minutes and made just 15 of 31 free throws in the game.
But Paul Andrews rebounded Davender's miss.
"My man checked me out, but the ball bounced to the right spot," Andrews said of his hustle along the baseline. "It wasn't a big effort or anything. The ball just happened to bounce right."
Andrews was fouled immediately and made both ends of a one-and-one with seven seconds left to clinch the victory.
"I thought 'If I hit the free throws, the game's over," the little-used senior said. "I thought, 'I've got to make these free throws. I've got to make these free throws.' "
UK improved to 9-4 overall and 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida fell to 12-4 overall and 4-1 in the SEC.
"If we win against LSU (at home Sunday), we're back in the conference race," UK coach Eddie Sutton said. "For 33 minutes, we played as well as you can in the game of basketball. The last seven we had to struggle."
Last night's flip-flop was the most pronounced example of inconsistency this season. It brought back memories of last season's game here against Georgia. The Cats had a 24-point lead in the second half that night and escaped with a 74-69 victory.
Two plays typified the joyride that was the first 33 minutes.
The first capped the 13-1 run that UK threw at Florida in the game's first five minutes. Lock, who scored nine points and grabbed 13 rebounds, was a trailer on the fast break. Chapman whipped a pass that went through Davender's hands right to Lock. The big man banked it home.
With eight minutes remaining in the game, fortune smiled on Kentucky once more. In a timeout, the Cats planned to let Davender create a shot with the seven seconds left on the shot clock. But the junior guard was covered on the inbounds play.
"Ed was going to penetrate and get the shot himself or kick it out to me," Blackmon said.
Instead, the ball was inbounded to Blackmon in the corner. The senior guard hit a three-pointer to give UK its first 20-point lead, 60-40, with 8:03 remaining.
"They were beating us on effort things," Florida coach Norm Sloan said, "and we weren't patient."
A rout seemed assured. Blackmon had held the high-scoring Maxwell (21.9 ppg) to just 10 points in the first 34 minutes. Maxwell scored 16 points in the last six minutes to finish with 26. Moten (17.1 ppg) got the same treatment from Davender. Moten finished with nine points.
Florida's 7-2 Dwayne Schintzius was no factor, either. Lock blocked the freshman's first tentative shot and Schintzius seemed befuddled throughout.
"The key was blocking that first shot," Lock said. "He wasn't too confident with his shooting after that." Schintzius hit one of 10 first-half shots and just three of 14 in the game.
"But remember he's just a freshman," Lock said. "The first time in Rupp can be intimidating."
UK did all that without much help from freshman Derrick Miller. Miller, the Cats' best three-point shooter (44.7 percent), played just two first-half minutes.
Sutton said the freshman was suffering from a groin pull. The coach said Miller showed he was still gimpy in his limited playing time.
If UK was going to be inconsistent, Sutton probably preferred the variety displayed in the first half.
Kentucky was hot and cold on offense.
The Cats kept the defensive heat on throughout.
UK's man-to-man held the SEC's best offensive team to just 21 points in the half. The Gators missed their first eight shots. Florida didn't score a field goal until Chris Capers hit from the post with 14:37 remaining.
UK was just as tenacious at the half's end. Florida had only one field goal in the final 6 1/2 minutes. That was freshman Melvin Jones' rebound basket at the buzzer that left UK leading 33-21 at intermission.