Date story published: Sunday, January 8, 1989
A big lead turned to big trouble again for Kentucky. But, as Vanderbilt coach C.M. Newton explained, because the Cats made the big plays, UK won 70-61 yesterday.
Derrick Miller's shooting -- three-point bombing and, for a change, off- the-dribble creations -- propelled Kentucky to a 16-point first-half lead.
But quicker than you could say Northwestern State and Bowling Green, all but two points of that cushion disappeared.
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When Eric Reid followed the sixth of Barry Goheen's six second-half three- pointers with a layup, Vandy had closed to within 58-56. The scoreboard showed 4:41, plenty of time to complete the comeback.
That crash Vandy and a Rupp Arena crowd of 23,338 heard was the echo of UK's come-from-ahead losses against the aforementioned Northwestern State and Bowling Green.
"Give Kentucky credit," Goheen said after UK's tents remained upright. "They made the plays. Maybe two weeks ago, they would have folded."
LeRon Ellis, whose new-found completeness yielded 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, agreed.
"They're right," he said. "Two weeks ago, I'd really have doubts."
Helped by a no-call that Newton termed "inexcusable," UK held together yesterday.
After Reggie Hanson's two free throws put UK ahead 60-56, Vandy center Frank Kornet got free for a layup that would have kept the pressure on. As Kornet rose for the shot, he collided with Ellis, who already had four fouls. Both players crashed to the floor. No call.
"I called timeout right after that to tell the team they had no control over that; to void that out and play," Newton said. "That's inexcusable when an obvious call is mixed with three officials."
UK coach Eddie Sutton said that he was screened off and couldn't judge the play. His assistants said that it could have been called blocking or charging, Sutton said.
"Please don't get me in the business of saying that's the reason we lost the game," Newton added. "The reason we lost is very simple. Kentucky made the big plays. It was a game of big plays. When they had to knock down the free throws, they did. When they had to have a bucket, they made the big play."
A set play freed Miller in the right corner. He drilled the fifth and last of his three-pointers and extended UK's lead to 63-56.
The Cats protected the margin by hitting seven of nine free throws in the final 63 seconds -- part of 16-for-18 accuracy at the line -- to even their record at 7-7.
UK also won a second straight game for the first time this season and improved its SEC record to 2-0. Vandy fell to 7-7 overall and 2-1 in the league.
"When they made their big run, we held our poise," Sutton said. "We played hard. We played smart. We did the things we teach and did the things we need to do to win. We are maturing as a basketball team."
Not that Vandy came up short in the maturity department. A dreadful first half did not get the Commodores down. Vandy made only four of its first 14 shots and was 9-of-25 in the half. Not blessed with a consistent low-post threat, Vandy's chances of beating UK for the first time at Rupp Arena did not look good after its perimeter players missed eight of 10 three-pointers and 14 of 17 first-half shots from 10 feet or farther.
"If you've got a team of characters, you kind of play the game out," Newton said. Vandy, which fell behind by as much as 36-20, trailed 36-22 at intermission. "If you have a team of character . . . They thought they could win the basketball game."
Vandy's first priority at halftime was to get Goheen involved. The senior guard from Marshall County took only four shots and made but one in the first half.
"We can't win that way," Newton said. "He absolutely did not get involved in the offense."
Asked why not, the Vandy coach said, "Barry's one of those guys (who knows) we put a great stress on the team concept and all that stuff. Hell, he must believe it.
"I don't want him to get selfish. But I want them to know who the hell to get the ball to."
Goheen responded immediately. He took the first shot of the second half and got a break. His three-pointer hit off the rim, then off the backboard and through the basket. Though no one knew it, the comeback was on.
"Coach said, 'You can't disappear,' " Goheen said of Newton's halftime oratory. "I took the first shot of the second half and got a good roll. That's something I haven't had at Rupp. Things kind of rolled on from there."
With UK ahead 45-32, Goheen sank back-to-back three-pointers.
When Vandy's next possession resulted in an inbounds pass at the sideline, a paying customer could be heard yelling, "Goheen, ease up on the three- pointers."
Goheen turned, acknowledged the fan with a frown and buried yet another three-pointer from the top of the key.
"Goheen was hitting big-time shots with people in his face when we were in zone or man-to-man," Sutton said.
When Goheen hit his sixth three-pointer of the half, Sutton switched defenders. Miller was replaced with Reggie Hanson.
"Needless to say, he's a better defensive player than Miller," Goheen said. "He jumps better. He's quicker. He's a little taller."
Goheen had only three shots in the final five minutes and all were free throws. He missed all three.
"I considered it earlier," Sutton said of the defensive switch. "But Derrick was playing pretty good defense. He had a hand up there. Barry was just hitting big-time shots."
Goheen's 18-point second half (he finished with 20) followed an equally dazzling first half by Miller.
UK's pick-up-stick of a guard poured in 16 of his game-high 27 in the first half. The barrage included four three-pointers.
In the second half, with Kentucky trying to fight off Goheen, Miller got creative. Four times he hit off the dribble. After Vandy's Barry Booker missed a three-pointer that would have tied it at 54-54, Miller hit back-to-back pull-up jumpers off the dribble.
Although he credited the UK coaches for working on shooting skills, Miller also gave Rex Chapman a word of thanks for his derring-do.
"I got that from Rex," Miller said. "I'll take chances. Rex would take a shot and the coaches would jump all over him. Rex would still take the shot.
"Coach Sutton will get all over me, too. When I make it, Coach says, 'Good shot.' "
Yesterday, after UK completed a week that saw victories over Georgia and Vandy, Sutton said: "Two wonderful games."