Date story published: Tuesday, November 29, 1988
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- It was Miller time here yesterday, a time Kentucky could relax and forget the possibility of a rare 1-3 start.
Derrick Miller scored a career-high 36 points to lead UK to a 89-71 victory over California. With the victory, UK claimed third place in the Great Alaska Shootout and evened its record at 2-2. Only three UK teams since 1926-27 have begun a season with a 1-3 record.
Miller was incredible. The 6-foot-6 junior guard made his first 10 shots, including a career-high seven three-pointers, and 12 of 14 overall to almost singlehandedly lift UK to victory.
Miller's previous high was 15 points, which he scored against Georgia as a freshman on Dec. 30, 1986. He hit five three-pointers to account for his 15 points in that game.
The Cats twice trailed by 10 in the first eight minutes. But Miller didn't miss until 7:45 remained in the game. By then, the Cats led 62-55 and had control.
Miller's first miss was a three-pointer with Cal's Matt Beeuwsaert rushing at him. His other miss came in the final 15 seconds when he rebounded a free throw and misfired from five feet.
Prior to last night's game, Miller had made only four of 15 shots (26.7 percent) and lost his starting guard position.
Cal, 1-2, was led by Keith Smith, who had 17 of his 19 points in the first half. Smith is the son of former Western Kentucky star Greg Smith.
UK trailed throughout the first half, but was comforted by only a 38-34 deficit at intermission.
The Cats missed 10 of their first 12 shots and fell behind 16-6 after seven minutes of play. UK shot much more quickly than in earlier games this season. Throughout the period, UK coach Eddie Sutton could be heard yelling "move" to a paradoxical Cat offense that was both stagnant and impulsive.
By contrast, Cal hit seven of its first nine shots. Fast breaks off UK misses helped the Golden Bears reap four baskets inside the lane.
So stunned was UK in the early going, Cal forward Roy Fisher found himself wide open along the baseline. Fisher had enough time to take three steps closer to the basket before tossing in a eight-footer.
Back-to-back blocked shots by LeRon Ellis ignited UK's effort. The blocks -- against Cal center Leonard Taylor's 15-footer and post-up shot -- seemed to propel a 7-0 UK run that brought the Cats to within one, 18-17, at the 9:27 mark.
But Cal's Smith would let UK get no closer.
Smith, who was unsuccessfully recruited by UK in 1986, scored 15 points in the final 9:19 to keep Cal ahead.
Smith hit perimeter jumpers and drove to stop-on-a-dime pull-up jumpers in the scoring spree.
The Cats tried Chris Mills, Deron Feldhaus and Miller on Smith. None had much success as Smith finished the half with 17.
Only Miller, who lost his starting guard spot in this tournament, kept UK in the game.
Miller matched his season total of nine points in the half's final 2:02. He sandwiched three-pointers around a Smith fadeaway in the lane. Those threes pulled UK to within four, 35-31.
Miller even hit a jumper on the move -- heretofore almost an impossibility -- to bring UK's deficit to 37-34 with 35 seconds left.
Foul trouble, which figures to be a problem for UK all season, was again present.
Point guard Sean Sutton and Mills each had three fouls in the half.
Miller didn't cool off at halftime. He hit two more three-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half. The second gave Kentucky its first lead, 45-42, and prompted a Cal timeout with 16:18 left.
Between Miller's bombs was an incredible baseline three-point play by Mills. Beeuwsaert bumped Mills nearly out of bounds. But Mills leaned toward the basket and flipped in a 10-footer.
As the game continued, two questions became paramount:
Would Miller ever miss?
Would Cal ever come out of its zone defense?
Another Miller three-pointer -- his fifth of the game -- gave UK a 52-48 lead with 14:09 left.
His sixth gave UK its largest lead, 58-51, with 11:43 left. At that point, Miller hadn't missed from the field, making all eight of his field-goal attempts to that point.
When Cal closed to three, 58-55, Miller again demonstrated a new ability to shoot on the run.
Cal switched to a man-to-man after a timeout at 11:25. Miller drove around Ryan Drew and hit a contested five-footer along the baseline.
Two possessions later, Miller leaned in for a 15-footer.
For a change, Miller had no part when UK gained its largest lead, 66-57, with 6:17 left.
After being stripped on the post, Ellis went to his knees to regain the ball and feed Hanson for a dunk.
The UK team is expected to arrive back at Bluegrass Field at 6 p.m. today.
The Wildcats were hardly tourists here in Alaska. The Cats practiced and/ or played each day here.
The closest the UK team came to sightseeing came on Sunday -- an off day from competition -- when it went to see an exhibit dedicated to the 1964 earthquake. A 15-minute movie, which included a sense-around effect that shook the seats -- was part of the show.
Meanwhile, the UK traveling party took in such activities as a plane ride to Mt. McKinley, tours of area glaciers and dogsledding.