Date story was published: Friday, February 16, 1990
Kentucky, a James "Buster" Douglas of Southeastern Conference basketball, floored the league's Mike Tyson last night.
But like last weekend's heavyweight upset, the SEC's Tyson, Louisiana State, had a shivering knockdown blow of its own. Chris Jackson, the baddest man on the SEC basketball planet, delivered a scary explosion of points on UK.
The Cats held on, emboldened by the screams of a record Rupp crowd of 24,301, to beat LSU 100-95. The old record was the 24,288 who saw last year's UK-LSU game.
Kentucky roared to a 23-point first-half lead and appeared to have subdued LSU, No. 9 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC.
The Tigers never led, and tied UK only at 3-3 (the first of Jackson's seven three-pointers), but Jackson made things interesting.
Jackson, the SEC's leading scorer in both of his seasons, scored 26 of his game-high 41 points in the second half. His brilliant shooting included six three-pointers in the second half, three of which came in the final three minutes.
Jackson's missiles helped LSU close to within two, 94-92. Seventy-two nail- biting seconds remained.
But Richie Farmer hit six straight free throws in the final 1:05 to give Kentucky the victory.
UK (13-10) closed to within a half-game of first-place LSU. Considered an also-ran and saddled with probation, the Cats improved their SEC record to 9-5.
LSU, awesomely talented but still basketball babes, fell to 19-5 overall and 9-4 in the SEC.
"My esteem for this team can't get any higher," UK coach Rick Pitino said of his Cats. "The impressive thing is we beat a team on a seven-game winning streak that had the kind of performance that young man put on."
That young man was Jackson, a sophomore chronologically but a savvy NBA vet in terms of nerveless talent.
"He's my Pistol Pete," said UK's Derrick Miller, recalling LSU's last precocious backcourt star, Pistol Pete Maravich. "We knew it was coming. We didn't panic."
Pitino confessed to re-evaluating his defensive philosophy after watching Jackson almost single-handedly turn a thorough -- if sloppy -- UK victory into high drama. Pitino said Wednesday he differed from legendary UK coach Adolph Rupp, who 20 years ago conceded points to Maravich and designed his defenses to stop Pistol's teammates. Pitino said he believed in stopping the other team's first option.
"I've changed to Coach Rupp's philosophy," Pitino said. "I've never seen before -- maybe Michael Jordan -- where you wonder what defense do you use? . . . He hit three 'threes' I don't think we can hit the rim on."
UK led 87-70 with less than six minutes left.
Then Jackson suddenly -- inevitably -- came alive. Four of Jackson's three- pointers and 14 of his points came thereafter. "I just love that pressure," said Jackson, who missed nine of his first 13 shots and six of his first seven three-point attempts. LSU needed something special from Jackson after freshman center Shaquille O'Neal fouled out with 6:52 left.
"Coach kept yelling and screaming to get beyond the NBA line to guard him," said Sean Woods, one of UK's many heroes. "I thought, 'Hey, I am. This guy's at the hash mark.' "
Jackson saved his eye-popping three-pointers for the end. With 2:46 left, he stopped and popped on the fast break to cut UK's lead to 92-86. LSU hadn't been that close since the game's first six minutes.
Backdoor baskets by John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus kept Kentucky ahead, but Jackson kept countering with three-pointers. One from the right corner with two UK defenders all over him brought LSU to within two, 94-92, with 1:12 left.
"It's got to worry you anytime you've got a guy who can make those shots," Farmer said.
Farmer came to the rescue. He hit all six free throws in three one-and-ones in the final 1:12.
"That wasn't anything new," he said. "I acted like I was at practice. It didn't bother me. I like it."
Rupp Arena housed a celebration of revenge throughout most of the first half. UK led by as much as 23 points as the Cats set about making amends for an emotional 94-81 loss at Baton Rouge last month.
UK had LSU out of sync in the half. The Tigers shot horribly (11 of 34) and openly oozed with frustration.
At one point, backup 7-footer Stanley Roberts received a technical for batting the ball at one of the referees.
Later, after committing a turnover against a UK trap, Jackson scowled at a referee and gestured that he had been slapped on the forearm. "There was a lot of holding and pushing," Jackson said, "but that goes with the territory."
"We could have wound up like Noriega," LSU coach Dale Brown. "They were so emotional it was like an avalanche. We could have been down by 30."
Kentucky struggled with its shooting, too. The Cats made only 16 of 47 shots. But UK's floor game excelled. The Cats had only six turnovers, 11 fewer than LSU. UK outscored LSU 16-4 off turnovers.
UK never trailed in the half, building its lead to as much as 41-18.
UK ran out of emotional gas, Pitino said, allowing LSU to go on an 18-7 run in the final 6:14 of the half.
"We were running out of gas because we didn't substitute like normal," Pitino said. Reggie Hanson (11 points and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes) and Deron Feldhaus (24 points, 10 rebounds and one turnover in 39 minutes) pulled extra duty, Pitino said, because of LSU's tall and deep front line.
UK got a lift from Woods in the second half. Limited to less than three minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Woods scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
Woods also had seven assists, enabling the sophomore to set a school record for first-year players. Woods increased his season's assist total to 128, two more than Dirk Minniefield had as a freshman in 1979-80.