Date story was published: Sunday, January 10, 1988
When John Caylor was growing up in Tennessee, one of his basketball goals was to someday beat Kentucky.
Last night, he did.
Caylor, a sophomore pressed into service last month when leading scorer Michael Jones was ruled academically ineligible, sank a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to give Auburn a 53-52 victory over Kentucky.
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Caylor's shot, launched from in front of the Auburn bench, capped a gutty Tiger performance that frustrated Kentucky throughout the night.
When Rex Chapman missed a desperation buzzer-beating heave from in front of the UK bench, Caylor's boyhood dream was reality.
And No. 1 Kentucky was defeated for the first time in 11 games. The Cats fell to 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference after seeing a 15-game Rupp Arena winning streak snapped.
"I feel so much emotion I don't know how to explain it," Caylor told ESPN's Dick Vitale afterward. "I've always wanted to come to Rupp Arena and get a win."
Later, in the Auburn locker room, Caylor said he always pictured himself as the hero.
"When I missed the free throw (the first of a clutch one-and-one with the scored tied at 50), it made me think of my goal of winning a game at Rupp," said Caylor, a Talbott, Tenn., native. "I wanted to do something to redeem myself. I know it's a bold goal, but if you want to be good you've got to set high standards."
After Chapman put Kentucky ahead 52-50 with two free throws at the 28- second mark, Caylor got his chance.
UK called time after Chapman's free throws to set up its defense. The idea was to contain Chris Morris, whose 28 shots were half of the 56 Auburn had taken to that point.
The 57th beat UK.
"I think they were expecting the ball to go to Chris," Caylor said. "When Chris rolled to the middle, that took everybody with him."
Caylor was left alone on the left side. Other options were guard Derrick Dennison for a three-pointer on the right side and post-ups to freshman center Matt Geiger and Morris.
"It's the same play (and the same shot) we made against Illinois to get into a position to tie them," Auburn coach Sonny Smith said. "Only Mike Jones took the shot."
When the ball was passed to Caylor, he went up immediately for his first three-point attempt of the game. He had made three of eight this season.
"I was sort of watching to see if it went in," Caylor said. "I had had an off-night (two of five at that point).
"When it went in . . . well, you can't explain it."
UK still had one chance to win.
UK coach Eddie Sutton decided not to call time to set up a play. Instead, Chapman rushed upcourt. Chapman's knack for last-second heroics failed him this time, as he predicted it might someday.
"I planned to take it all the way to the basket," Chapman said. "I wanted to take the shot. But I got cut off and had to take a shot."
Morris cut off Chapman in front of the UK bench. Chapman leaned toward the basket some 25 feet away and threw up an off-balance flip that banged off the far rim.
Asked if he thought the shot had a chance to go in, Chapman mumbled half- heartedly, "I thought it did."
Should UK have called time?
"Perhaps we should have," Sutton said. "You can do it either way. Sometimes you're better off in a broken-floor situation (before the defense is set up). I think you can get a better shot.
"But like I've said before, it's usually not the first shot that does it in a situation like it. It's usually the second shot. I thought it'd be a repeat of the Louisville game."
Cedric Jenkins, practically a no-show last night, tipped in Ed Davender's miss at the buzzer to beat Louisville last month.
Last night, Caylor beat Winston Bennett to Chapman's missed shot. Caylor's rebound sealed Auburn's ninth victory in 11 games. The Tigers improved to 2-0 in the SEC after upset victories over the league's two top-rated teams, Florida and UK.
"One of the biggest shots in the Auburn basketball history," Smith said of Caylor's three-pointer. "It was taken by one of the slowest players in the Southeastern Conference ... but one of the smartest, too."
Told that Caylor said beating Kentucky was one of his goals, Smith laughed and said, "Everybody in Tennessee talks that way."
UK, which lost at Rupp for only the 17th time in 178 games, was forced to play at Auburn's slow-down pace throughout the game.
"That was ball-control at its best," Sutton said. "I know because I played for the master (Henry Iba). They did a good job shortening the length of the game. Every possession was like three possessions in a normal game. A two- point lead was like a six-point lead in a normal game. I think we became impatient on defense at times."
UK's man-to-man pressure, which Smith feared would disrupt his team's newly adopted slow-down style, never materialized.
For the most part, Auburn moved the ball as it wished.
"We'd be fools to run up and down the floor with them," Smith said.
Asked his reaction to having only 12 turnovers against UK's pressure man- to-man, Smith said: "I was shocked."
Sutton admitted more than a little surprise, too.
In terms of disappointing defeats, "this ranks in my top six," the UK coach said. "I really believe we are the better team. Maybe this is good for the team to learn. Others may play us this way, spread the floor. We tried to pressure them. We just couldn't speed up the game."
Had Morris been shooting better, the Tigers would have had the lead at intermission. Morris made just three of 14 shots and Auburn hit only nine of 27.
Still, UK's relatively complacent Cats could boast just a 28-25 lead at halftime.
Poor shooting plagued UK, too. The Cats made only 11 of 31 first-half shots.
While UK's defense was relatively passive, the Cats' offense was probably too up-tempo for Sutton's liking. The Cats were quick to jack up shots. UK took 11 three-pointers in the half, and made three. For the game, UK was 4-of- 14 from three-pointer territory and 21 of 61 overall (a season-low 34.4 percent).
UK missed its first six shots and didn't score a basket until the 14:32 mark. Bennett bulled over Geiger, a skinny freshman, for a 10-footer in the lane.
Bennett's basket cut a 6-1 deficit to 6-3.
UK did not take its first lead until Bennett rebounded Chapman's misfire from three-point territory. Bennett's basket gave UK a 12-11 lead with 10:07 left.
The lead grew to 26-18 as UK ran up 10 straight points.
Derrick Miller thrilled the Rupp crowd by following Davender's bomb with a three-pointer of his own. Four straight points from Bennett made it 26-18.
"I felt we were in pretty good shape," Sutton said. "But we let them creep back in."