Date story published: Sunday, December 3, 1995
INDIANAPOLIS -- Cats fans can turn off the Blue Alert. They can move that razor blade away from their collective wrist. There's no longer trouble in Basketball City.
Not after Kentucky beat Indiana 89-82 yesterday.
Kentucky outfought the dreaded Hoosiers in this annual test of basketball manhood. The Cats also put a timely bandage on those problem areas much discussed after Tuesday's loss to Massachusetts.
Slow starts? Coach Rick Pitino's lineup change solved that. In went Anthony Epps at point guard, out went those annoying early deficits (down 20-9 to Maryland, 29-10 to UMass). UK led Indiana 18-4 inside the first five minutes. At its zenith, the early Kentucky lead was 20-6 at the 14:22 mark.
The Cats began the second half in fine fiddle, too. An 8-1 spurt to start the half built a 55-45 lead.
"We were kind of out of sync the other way," Pitino said of the previous Tony Delk-Derek Anderson starting backcourt. "The ball was not going where it should go. That's where Epps will help out."
Passive play? Kentucky no longer seemed as if it were trying to protect a No. 1 ranking, which surely will be gone this week. The Cats forced 18 turnovers, including such reflections of defensive effort as a 10-second violation, a five-second and two back-tips, a Pitino favorite.
"I feel the guys were feeding off my emotion," Epps said.
No inside game? The Cats quadrupled their production of post-up baskets. UK had only one against UMass but got four against Indiana. Combined with several dunks off lobs, it made for an effective inside attack.
Three post-up baskets helped Antoine Walker to a career-high 24 points.
"With him staying inside and not drifting out, he looked great," Delk said of Walker.
Walker acknowledged that it made a difference with UMass intimidator Marcus Camby not around. Still, the Cats achieved their aim of establishing credibility inside.
"Coach made a big point of that," Walker said. "We're not going to back down from anybody. We think we can play our post-up game against anybody in the country."
Poor free-throw shooting? UK made 65 percent of its free throws in the first two games. Against Indiana, the Cats made 80.8 percent (21 of 26). That included 16 of 18 in a second-half battle of wills.
"We looked better than the first two games," said Pitino, who cited the UMass loss as inspiration. "The loss drove a stake in those guys."
It reminded the Cats that the opposition will not be buried under a pile of press clippings, he said.
Typically for this game, Indiana did not surrender when UK jumped ahead early. The Cats' first basket showed UK meant business. Six seconds after Indiana scored the game's first basket, Walter McCarty rose for a slam.
Twice in the first six minutes, Kentucky converted steals into baskets. Walker ripped the ball from Neil Reed and drove to a layup. McCarty took a weak Todd Lindeman pass and drove to a dunk. That gave UK its 20-6 lead.
"In this game, you never surrender to fatigue because it means so much to both teams," Pitino said of an Indiana rally that reduced UK's lead to 47-44 by halftime.
Senior forward Brian Evans, the focus of the Hoosiers' offense, led the way. He poured in 19 of his game-high 28 points in the first half.
"That young man, Brian Evans, is as difficult to guard as anyone I've seen in a long time," Pitino said. "And they know where he's at at all times. . . . We just wore him out. Not only did he handle the ball, but he had to go against the press, and in the motion offense he's constantly cutting."
Derek Anderson, the former Ohio Stater, compared guarding Evans to attempting to contain former IU national player of the year Calbert Cheaney. "It's like a nightmare in itself," Anderson said of the multiple screens Indiana sets to free its designated scorers.
But Evans scored only nine second-half points, including a harmless three- pointer with 6.9 seconds left.
In the final 10 minutes, Kentucky seized the initiative in a game neither team could comfortably gain control. Anderson hit the big shots. His back-to- back three-pointers midway through the second half widened a three-point lead to 71-64.
Anderson, practically a non-person in UK's first two games, scored 12 of his career-high 18 points (career-high for the Cats) in the final 10 minutes.
Yet another problem area solved this day.