Date story was published: Sunday, February 18, 1990
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Rick Pitino made a long, solitary walk to the dressing room at halftime last night.
Kentucky's first-year coach held his head down, touched a thoughtful finger to his chin and seemed a million miles from Tuscaloosa.
His only acknowledgment of the difficult circumstances was to look up and stare at the referees. Pitino motioned with his arms that Alabama's Marcus Webb came over a UK player's back for a put-back basket with two seconds left in the half.
In truth, Alabama was all over Kentucky. Webb's basket gave Alabama a 49-27 halftime lead.
The formality of a second half set the final score in Alabama's 83-59 victory over Kentucky.
This unconditional defeat snapped UK's four-game winning streak and probably broke the team's hopes of winning the Southeastern Conference regular season championship.
The Cats fell to 13-11 overall, still needing one more victory to assure at least a break-even record. UK fell to 9-6 in the SEC.
UK had its low-point total of the season, coming under the 69 scored against Indiana. UK also had its low number of field-goals, 18. The Cats had 22 against Indiana.
Alabama, winning for the first time in three games, improved to 18-7 overall and 9-5 in the SEC.
At halftime, the Titanic had a better chance at a comeback. Kentucky lost center Reggi Hanson less than two minutes into the game. Hanson was ejected, along with Alabama's Robert Horry. UK walk-on Tony Cooper was also ejected. Cooper left the bench when Horry and Hanson traded blows.
The double ejections were a sign that Alabama came to roll UK into a tight bundle and stuff the Cats through the hoops.
Alabama's stifling man-to-man defense, which held UK to five first-half baskets, caused the Hanson-Horry ejections at the 18:18 mark.
Horry, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, joined his teammates in playing chest-to-chest defense. Hanson passed off, then raised his forearms to Horry's chest to get the Alabama player at arms length.
Horry reacted with a forearm jolt that caused Hanson to stumble backward.
Hanson stepped toward Horry and flicked a right jab toward Horry's face.
Hanson and Horry then were separated.
Like the incident at Baton Rouge, the players then milled about while the coaches spoke to the referees. Unlike the first LSU game, the coaches directed their comments at referee Don Ferguson and did not square off.
Hanson left with no points and no rebounds. His only shot, a driving layup to start the game, was blocked by Horry.
Hanson's previous lows this season were two points at Kansas and no rebounds at Auburn.
With Alabama's league-leading defense intensified, UK could have used Hanson. UK made just five of 20 first-half shots (25 percent), and had one basket in the last 12:08 of the half.
In that time, Bama outscored UK 30-15 to open up its 49-27 halftime lead.
Before things got out of hand, Pitino called three timeouts within five minutes trying to keep the Cats in the game.
The first came with 15:24 left after James Sanders hit a three-pointer to give Alabama a 14-7 lead.
The second came with 10:37 left. It followed a crisp passing display that saw Melvin Cheatum whip up a layup for Marcus Campbell.
Seventy-five seconds later, Pitino spent a third timeout. Cheatum's rebound basket had made it 25-12.
The timeouts didn't help.
Bama, ranked eighth in the SEC in field-goal percentage (45.2), cut up UK's zone. The Tide shot 57.6 percent in the half, making 19 of 33 shots.
Bama never abandoned its man-to-man. the Tide didn't have to. When UK did get good shots, they missed them. Derrick Miller, the Cats' leading scorer (19.9 ppg), missed his five first-half shots.
The second half brought no relief.
The Cats did not hit double figures in field goals until John Pelphrey hit a twisting leaner with 5:17 left.
That basket cut Bama's lead to 76-40.
Pitino's frustrations spilled over with 9:31 left in the game. When Miller was called for a foul while jockeying in low-post defense on Keith Askins, Pitino exploded.
He ignored the coach's box and stepped to midcourt to say that he objected.