Date story was published: Sunday, January 6, 1991
Fill in the blank: ---------- LEADS UK PAST LSU.
Deron Feldhaus grabbed the spotlight yesterday for a Kentucky basketball team with a multiple-choice selection of heroes. He filled in the blank by filling up the basket.
"His name better be in the headlines," LSU coach Dale Brown said of Feldhaus. "Feldhaus was the difference in the game."
Feldhaus, conceded his shots when Louisiana State concentrated its defenses elsewhere, equaled his career high with 27 points as Kentucky beat LSU 93-80.
Feldhaus hit a career-high six three-pointers -- doubling his season total -- including two during a 19-3 UK run in the first half that shattered LSU's game plan and broke the game open.
"It felt great," Feldhaus said. "My confidence was high and that makes a big difference. I hit a couple three-pointers and got it going. I wish I knew what it was. I'd do it every night."
Even though Feldhaus had a season-high 18 points by halftime and Kentucky roared to two 18-point leads early in the second half, LSU did not go quietly. Mountainous center Shaquille O'Neal scored 17 of his game-high 28 points and grabbed seven of his game-high 17 rebounds in the second half to fuel a comeback.
LSU got as close as two points when another hero popped up for Kentucky.
Pretty as you please, walk-on Junior Braddy swished a three-pointer in transition -- his first trey of the season -- after LSU had just crept to within two, 61-59.
When LSU closed to within two again, 66-64, a familiar face took a turn at center stage. Reggie Hanson, UK's lone senior, scored four straight points to ease the growing tension and complete a 24-point afternoon.
Moments later, five straight three-pointers -- two by Richie Farmer, and one each by John Pelphrey, Feldhaus and Braddy -- did in Brown's tiring Tigers.
Asked about Kentucky's knack for finding a hero for any occasion, Coach Rick Pitino said, "That's exactly it. That's what makes our team difficult (to beat). It was a great performance by Feldhaus when we needed it."
UK improved to 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. LSU fell to 8-3 and 1-1 in the league.
So important was this early SEC showdown, LSU used its famed "freak" defense for the first time this season. The combination defense had O'Neal and guards T.J. Pugh and Mike Hansen in a triangle zone: O'Neal guarding the basket and avoiding fouls with the guards at the top of the key. Brown assigned defensive stoppers Vernel Singleton and Shawn Griggs man-to-man on John Pelphrey and Jeff Brassow, UK's most prolific three-point bombers.
"Pelphrey and Brassow didn't hit pay dirt," Brown said of their zip-for-4 three-point shooting in the half.
However, the "freak" has a hole on the weak side, Pitino said, where one defender must cover the wing and the corner. Feldhaus and Hanson, who each had four three-pointers in the half, exploited the weakness.
Feldhaus had 10 of his points during UK's 19-3 run that established a 42-25 lead fewer than four minutes before halftime.
"We didn't figure he'd be that good from that deep a range," Brown said of Feldhaus. "Unfortunately, he was. He turned the whole game around, and had a good time doing it. He sure played a wonderful game."
By the time Feldhaus got hot, LSU had abandoned its "freak." A technical foul on O'Neal prompted the change in strategy, Brown said.
"You can't play that defense from behind," Brown said. "They're too relaxed. That defense has to make people tight."
Though Hanson missed his free throws, Farmer made the two technicals and Feldhaus hit a three-pointer with the ensuing possession to establish a 28-22 Kentucky lead.
O'Neal's first foul prompted the technical foul at the 6:56 mark. An O'Neal layup had just closed Kentucky's lead to 23-22 when he rebounded Brassow's three-point miss. Hanson slapped the ball from O'Neal's grasp from behind, then hung in the air as O'Neal challenged his shot and was called for a foul.
Seeing the call, O'Neal flung the ball to the court in frustration. It bounced a good 15 feet into the air before coming to rest at the far end of the court.
"I just lost my cool," O'Neal said. "He touches me, it's no foul. I touch him, it's a foul. Call the game fair. I held the ball up and he reached over my back. Then I touched him and they call a chicken foul."
Brown sat down the visibly upset O'Neal for most of the rest of the half.
O'Neal's return signaled a second-half comeback. But UK did not expect to stop the league's best scorer (29.3 ppg), rebounder (15.0 rpg) and shot blocker (4.7 bpg).
"We weren't going to stop O'Neal, no matter what we did, and we tried our best to keep him from catching the ball," Pitino said. "We knew that."
UK put top priority on containing O'Neal's teammates, especially Hansen, the Tigers' best outside shooter. Hansen struggled to score 14 points on 5- for-13 shooting.
An inadvertent elbow by Hanson helped stall the rally. With UK clinging to a 66-64 edge, Hanson accidentally caught Singleton in the mouth. After the game, Singleton needed five stitches to close the wound.
Singleton, whose three-point play cut UK's lead to 66-64, scored one point the rest of the way.
UK's three-point shooting dominated down the stretch.
"We just tired them out," Hanson said.
True enough, said Brown, who lost some depth Friday when he suspended forward Wayne Sims for the season.
"We didn't have as deep a bench," the LSU coach said. "We're only carrying 11 guys and our top (reserve) was not here."
LSU, it turned out, ran out of heroes.