Date story published: Sunday, January 25, 1998
KNOXVILLE - If Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith can get the same kind of cooperation from the referees he got from his team last night, he'll retire the title of Mr. Persuasion.
A day after calling for more scoring from his guards and better overall defense, Smith watched his requests come to life and overwhelm Tennessee 85-67.
Starting guards Jeff Sheppard and Wayne Turner contributed a combined season-high 34 points (17 points each) to an offense that shot 52.4 percent (the best by a Tennessee opponent in Southeastern Conference play this season).
sprinting out of the traps. We were active."
Smith's appeals to the referees, however, fell on deaf ears. The UK coach repeatedly protested calls in a tightly whistled second half. His feelings about the refs probably didn't improve when Doug Shows hit Scott Padgett with two technicals, the first for taunting after a dunk and the second for questioning a walking call. Padgett led UK with 20 points despite having to exit with 4:28 left.
Of those who listened to the UK coach, Sheppard took center stage early. Two of his five three-point baskets - which tied a career high - came during a 20-0 breakout run for Kentucky midway through the first half.
"Jeff Sheppard really got us going early with his shooting and hustle," Smith said. "And we wanted to make (Tennessee's potential-ladened freshman point guard) Tony Harris work. Wayne Turner did a good job pushing the ball up the court and defending him."
Turner's 17 points were his second highest total of the season.
Kentucky, which trailed for just nine seconds, broke the game open with a collection of solid plays that covered the court baseline to baseline, offense to defense.
When the five-minute highlight reel ended, Kentucky erased Tennessee's only lead (17-16) and assumed a 36-17 advantage. In that span, UK took three charges, blocked two shots and made three of four three-point attempts. Tennessee committed turnovers on four straight possessions and got only two shots to the rim.
"We were playing pretty well," Tennessee's first-year coach, Jerry Green, said. "We were getting the ball inside. Then they played about as good a basketball as I've seen since I've been coaching." Green began coaching in the 1969-70 season.
The breakout began with - of all things - a Michael Bradley free throw. The freshman, whose 36.8-percent free-throw shooting included an air ball against Arkansas last weekend, missed off the front of the rim on his first shot. Then he made his second to tie it 17-17 with 12:23 left in the half.
On UK's next possession, Nazr Mohammed made a no-look, backhand pass from the low post that netted a cutting Allen Edwards a layup.
Later in the span, UK took two straight charges. Tennessee's main inside scoring threat, forward C.J. Black, charged into Turner (or Turner flopped). After Sheppard hit a three-pointer, he ran downcourt and took a charge from fast-breaking UT guard Vegas Davis.
A moment later, Sheppard made yet another notable play. He jumped high for a wayward lob and saved it. The possession ended with a Padgett three-pointer.
The run ended with Turner blocking freshman Tony Harris' shot from behind and Mohammed hitting a right-handed hook.
UK expanded its lead to as much as 48-28 late in the half, and led 48-30 at the break.
When not being called for fouls (Tennessee shot the one-and-one with 13:56 left), Kentucky controlled the second half.
Tennessee closed to within 62-51 with 9:51 left.
But Padgett came to the rescue. With Tennessee fans cheering for a miracle comeback, Padgett set a screen for Turner near the foul line. Turner came off the screen and took a 15-footer. It missed, but Padgett had rolled to the basket and dunked the rebound home.
"It's a play we run a lot of times," said Padgett, who downplayed its significance. "They were playing me to pop back (to the three-point line). So I was rolling to the basket."
Turner hit him for a layup off the play in the first half.
"Kentucky is the best basketball team we've played," the Tennessee coach said. "They do a lot of things well. But I think that the thing they do best is passing the ball."
While Kentucky clicked offensively, Tennessee struggled. Harris, who one day might be an All-SEC guard, frequently over-penetrated or shot too quickly, a team problem Green hoped to cure against Kentucky.
Apparently, he wasn't as persuasive as the UK coach.
"We shot over a hand all the time," Harris said. "Look at Kentucky. Their shots were all open. They didn't care who scored. They killed us with their patience."