Date story was published: Sunday, January 14, 1990
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Bulletin: Kentucky coach Rick Pitino did what he said he would never do. He abandoned his relentlessly upbeat style of play.
Stop the presses: In the heat of battle, Pitino considered changing the bone structure of Dale Brown's nose. At midcourt in front of 14,085 fans.
Headlines galore poured from a white-hot Kentucky-Louisiana State game last night.
But no victory for the Cats. LSU beat UK 94-81.
The unusual did not stop at Pitino's strategic flexibility and competitive fire.
LSU used a diamond-and-one defense to hold Derrick Miller to a season-low seven points.
Though ahead throughout, the Tigers had to withstand a Jeff Brassow shooting spree. Brassow hit seven second-half three-pointers, and finished with a career-high 25.
UK fell to 6-8 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
LSU, which got 28 points from super guard Chris Jackson and tons of intimidation from its massive front line, improved to 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC.
Pitino pulled out all the stops to win this game.
"I gambled," Pitino said. "I figured the last thing they'd expect was a deliberate style from Kentucky. I didn't feel we could come in here and play them on the backboards.
"I almost went against my own thoughts a little bit. Remember, I said you can't do it for one game. But I felt we had to do it for a half in order to have a chance to win."
According to Pitino's plan, the Cats would slow down in the first half, conserve fouls, then hit LSU with a full-court, three-point shooting assault in the second half.
"We just wanted one half deliberate," Pitino said, "and one-half Kentucky. We wanted to be within eight or 10 points at half. If we'd made a few 'threes' early, we'd have had a shot. But we missed them."
After one of the wildest halves in recent memory, Kentucky trailed 50-33.
Two fights nearly broke out. The second had Pitino and Brown shouting angrily at each other with their noses no more than a foot apart.
On Friday, Pitino called Brown "charming." Last night, Pitino became enraged after LSU's Maurice Williamson shoved a left hand in Brassow's face. The jolt caused Brassow to stumble backward.
The shove came at the 4:48 mark. Play had stopped after Brassow pressured Chris Jackson into back-to-back three-point misses.
Williamson and Brassow were standing at midcourt nodding their heads at each other in a threatening manner.
Suddenly, Williamson shoved his hand in Brassow's face.
That brought both benches on the court.
Pitino vented his anger at one referee. Brown joined the huddle, squaring off with a referee not occupied by Pitino.
Again, suddenly, Pitino and Brown forgot about the referees and began shouting at each other.
"He got in my face and I wasn't even talking to him," said Pitino, who managed a joke. "That's happened to me twice. The first time was with John Thompson, and I was very concerned. I wasn't as concerned this time."
Brown, who termed his exchange with Pitino "street talk," said the UK coach faked his anger to inspire the Cats.
"It was probably staged to get his team fired up," Brown said, "and I can understand that."
UK trailed 38-20 at the time, but it seemed real enough. Four Parish deputies came on the floor to separate the teams and coaches. Left standing at mid-court were Ray "Rock" Oliver, UK's muscular strength coach, and LSU assistant Johnny Jones.
Technicals were called on Jackson and Brassow.
UK needed Pitino's fighting spirit. The game had a not-just-another-outing air about it from the beginning.
LSU opened in a diamond-and-one defense. Randy Devall shadowed Miller, UK's top three-point shooter.
"You could tell their coach told them, 'If Miller goes to the restroom, you hand him a tissue,' " Miller said.
Much to the discomfort of both benches, Miller and Devall traded shoves throughout most of the half. Miller pushed off to free himself. Devall shoved and held trying to stay with Miller.
Devall had four first-half fouls, but the strategy worked. Miller took only one first-half shot. He made it, a contested 15-footer, with 2:03 left.
UK played scared for much of the half. Three times in the first six minutes, a UK player threw a pass rather than take a makeable pass. Each time the surprised teammate intended to receive the pass had already turned toward the basket for a rebound.
Pitino cited the limited time to practice a new slower tempo.
Of course, there werecky had reasons to look intimidated. Early in the half, John Pelphrey went up for a low-post leaner. Stanley Roberts, a 7- footer, and 7-1 Shaquille O'Neal both blocked the effort.
Later, Deron Feldhaus went up for a similar shot. O'Neal absorbed Feldhaus and the shot in his chest.
LSU roared to a 24-8 lead in the first nine minutes.
The lead grew to as much as 33-13.
Brassow's three-point shooting gave UK a chance in the second half. Brassow hit five three-pointers in the first 13 minutes of the second half.
The Cats needed them. Hanson picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in the first 95 seconds of the half.
"We looked like St. Dominic's, where I played," Pitino said of his old high school. "But we're not small in heart, just small in stature."
The second half alternated between LSU flirts with a blowout victory and UK threatening to pull out an unlikely victory.
The crowd roared loudest when Williamson came from behind to block Brassow's fastbreak layup.
Later, O'Neal saved a missed free throw off Brassow's leg. Given the extra possession, Jackson drilled a three-pointer.
Brassow's fourth three-pointer got UK as close as the Cats could get: 58-50.
LSU led by as much as 20 (86-66) late.