Date story published: Sunday, December 8, 1996
LOUISVILLE - Finding a defining moment in Kentucky's shockingly one-sided 99-65 victory over Indiana last night was like selecting the worst daytime television talk show. There were so many choices.
But one second-half exchange of possessions stood out. One trip downcourt symbolized IU's fumble-fingered play, and the other UK's utter dominance.
Indiana found the shot clock winding dangerously deep into single digits. So freshman point guard A.J. Guyton heaved - it was not a shot, but literally a heave - a 35-foot throw at the basket. UK rebounded the airball and headed purposefully upcourt. A quick pass found Derek Anderson on the baseline, where he drove for a take-that-and-like-it dunk over IU star Andrae Patterson.
That exchange, and more like it than Cat fans could have dreamed possible, produced another memorable scene. Anthony Epps, Ron Mercer and Anderson emerged from a timeout and lingered at halfcourt. They exchanged triumphant hugs. They smiled broadly. The clock showed 3:36 left! The typical Kentucky-Indiana game had only just been getting serious at that stage.
"I was shocked," Epps said. "I can honestly say I was shocked we beat a good team this bad."
UK came within one point of the most lopsided victory in the hotly competitive series. Three points separated the two teams in their last seven meetings. Yet, only Rupp's Runts' 91-56 victory in the 1965 UKIT topped the severity of this beating.
"It was a matter of everything happening right for us and not much happening right for them," a diplomatic UK Coach Rick Pitino said. "They have young players who don't see this style regularly."
Pitino graciously ordered his players to hold the ball at mid-court so as not to score 100 points. An opponent scored 100 points just six times in Bob Knight's 780 games as Indiana coach.
But UK's lopsided victory was more than a mere fluke occurrence. It had been planned. And the plan worked.
Kentucky (5-1) sought a fast tempo, the better to turn loose its greyhounds and the more likely to confuse Indiana's freshmen, three of whom started.
"That was the biggest key we had," said Anderson, who matched his career-high with 30 points, 23 in the decisive first half. "It was about 95 percent of the game plan."
The other five percent involved containing Indiana's two scoring threats: Patterson and three-point shooter Neil Reed. The Cats held Reed to two shots, no three-point attempts and three points. Patterson didn't reach double figures until the final eight minutes. By then, UK led by 30.
UK's so-called "Dynamic Duo," Anderson and Mercer, outscored their IU counterparts 56-19.
"Their team and their coach play this kind of basketball about as well as anybody could possibly play it," Knight said. "This was really a very simple game. We just got beat by a better team."
From tip-off to halftime buzzer, the Cats dictated an uptempo pace in the first half that ground Indiana's famous precision into disarray.
UK expressed pre-game concern about Indiana's bone-jarring picks. What picks? In a full-court game, the Hoosiers did not get into a set offense that often. As UK stretched its first-half lead to unbelievable proportions - 30 points at its zenith - the Hoosiers rushed that much more.
Anderson and Mercer set the tone by scoring 11 of Kentucky's first 13 points and 17 of the first 21. "One thing we're doing better than any other year is we're freeing those guys with killer screens," Pitino said. "Jamaal Magloire, Jared Prickett, even Nazr Mohammed are setting great screens."
The early scoring fueled UK's pressure defense.
Indiana, which fretted before the game about averaging 15.3 turnovers, committed a whopping 19 in the first half. Three more times the Hoosiers called 20-second timeouts because a player couldn't inbound the ball or faced an impossible trap. IU finished with 28 turnovers.
To combat Kentucky's signature pressure defense, Knight started three guards. It didn't help. Indiana looked uncomfortable from the beginning and played on the brink of a turnover throughout the half.
When an Anderson jumper put UK ahead 21-7, a happy Cat fan yelled, "Get a T.O., General." Knight, nicknamed the General by Dick Vitale, waited for a TV timeout.
After falling behind 29-8, Indiana briefly turned up its defense and rallied. The Hoosiers crept within 31-17. Then the game turned for good. Patterson, the hero of IU's Preseason NIT championship, missed a three and then had the ball stripped. It was part of his seven-point, five-turnover half.
Allen Edwards' three-pointer at the other end killed the rally.
Kentucky's lead reached 53-23 when Edwards drove the baseline and threw down a take-that dunk.
Indiana had come back three times this season from halftime deficits to win. The Hoosiers had been 0-11 in such situations last season. But UK's 55-31 advantage seemed comeback-proof.
Seven straight Guyton points brought Indiana within 57-38 early in the second half. The Hoosiers got no closer.
No wonder one post-game question left the usually loquacious Pitino almost speechless.
Did anything displease you, coach?
After a pause, Pitino finally said, "Uh, no. Any time you beat such a well-coached team by that many points, you have to be happy."