Date story was published: Friday, December 28, 1990
Cast in the Apollo Creed role, favored Kentucky could not knock out Rocky- like Eastern Kentucky last night.
But the Wildcats were happy with a 74-60 split decision, er, victory just the same.
Heady defense and a career-high 27 points from rejuvenated Reggie Hanson sparked UK's seventh victory in nine games.
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On the down side, the Cats shot three-pointers like they were wearing Rocky Balboa's boxing gloves for a second straight game. The Cats made only five of 30 three-point attempts. Hanson, who came into the game 3-for-10 on treys this season, made three of five.
Kentucky coach Rick Pitino shrugged off the poor shooting, choosing not to create a mental block.
"You can't set the players to thinking they're off," Pitino said of the Cats (14-for-66 on treys in its last two games). "Then the confidence sinks. They were good shots. They'll come."
John Pelphrey, in particular, struggled. Pelphrey made just one of 11 three-point attempts and two of 15 from the field.
"Some little man was on the rim knocking the ball off," Pelphrey said, still able to joke despite 3-for-19 three-point shooting in his last two games. "With our style, you don't worry about makes and misses. But I was beginning to doubt that for a while."
Pitino singled out rebounding as an area of concern heading into Saturday's game at Louisville. Eastern outrebounded UK 48-28, dominating both boards. The Cats had only three offensive rebounds in the second half against an Eastern team that started forwards measuring 6-foot-6 and 6-3.
"We worked so hard on the press," Pitino said. "We worked hard defending their delay game."
Eastern's spread offense -- "The Mongoose" -- did not play a major factor in the game.
Eastern had 21 offensive rebounds that led to 17 second-chance opportunities, Pitino said. The Colonels got 24 points off those rebounds.
"It doesn't pay to play tough 94-foot defense and then give up an easy shot," Pitino said. "Every year we seem to have to have one of those practices to remind them how important that is."
Today's morning practice will be devoted to rebounding, Pitino said.
"We're blocking out, but we're upright too much," the UK coach said. "The shot goes up and we get moved. You need a lower base. You need butts on thighs."
That will be the lesson for defensive rebounding, Pitino said.
On the offensive board, "You need to spin away from the block-out and get to the opposite side of the rim," Pitino said. Rebounding has "been a problem for two years. It's a size problem."
UK won the game in the final 10 minutes, outscoring Eastern 27-12.
Fatigue and questionable officiating were among the factors that did in Eastern, Coach Mike Pollio said.
"We had great defense till the last seven-eight minutes," Pollio said. "Then we did something we don't usually do. We started standing around. We tired a mite."
Pollio also tired of the referees. At one point inside the final five minutes, when Eastern was called for charging, Pollio told the referees, "I give up."
With some prompting in his postgame interview, Pollio questioned the officiating, mentioning an out-of-bounds call that took several seconds to decide. As the referees huddled, Pollio flipped a coin in front of the bench.
"When deciding which way, they must have said, 'Hell, who's giving us the check? White ball,'" Pollio said. "A couple of charging calls could have gone either way. I thought they called it the same way."
Kentucky led 35-31 after a first half of mixed results.
Hanson broke out of a result scoring slump (43 points in the last four games) with a 14-point half.
"I came out relaxed," Hanson said. "The last few games, I think I was a little too tense. I relaxed. I took the shots when they came."
The shots went in at an unprecedented rate. Hanson's previous high was a 25-point game at Mississippi last February.
"It's great," Hanson said of his career high, "but I can't look at it being a big factor in the future."
UK's three-point shooting woes offset Hanson's surge. Coming off a 9-for- 36 night against Western Kentucky on Friday, the Cats hit only three of 17 three-point attempts in the first half.
The Colonels were obviously quicker and used that edge to keep control of their nerves early.
With the game tied at 25-25, UK scored eight straight points to take its largest lead of the half: 33-25.
Poor shooting cost Kentucky a chance to break it open. The Cats made only one of their last nine shots of the half: a Hanson hook in the lane. UK's bricks allowed Eastern to close within 35-31 at the break.
If Pitino tried to improve UK's three-point shooting with some Knute Rockne halftime rhetoric, it did not work. The Cats missed their first six three-point attempts.
Worse, UK did not rebound the misses. The Cats got one shot or a turnover on their first 15 possessions of the half.
Eastern would not go away, taking a 48-47 lead with 10:13 left on a play that typified Kentucky's frustrations. With the shot clock inside three seconds, Aric Sinclair threw up a 30-footer. UK stood flatfooted as sophomore Chris Brown hustled for the rebound put-back.
Hanson broke UK's string of three-point misses at the 9:51 mark. The top- of-the-key shot ignited UK's decisive breakout.