Date story published: Sunday, February 7, 1999
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Ken Starr will start indulging in sex, drugs and rock and roll. Bill Clinton will regain virgin purity.
Anything seemed possible after Alabama beat Kentucky 62-58 yesterday.
Never mind that UK was the defending national champion, ranked No. 5 in the nation and aroused by a loss at Florida two days earlier.
It didn't matter that Alabama was a last-place team, playing without its leading scorer and twice a loser in the previous seven days by an average margin of 32.5 points.
Freshman forward Sam Haginas, who scored the go-ahead and game-winning baskets in the final 24 seconds, didn't know quite how to react. "It'll probably take me hours to go home and realize what happened," he said.
Alabama's first-year coach, Mark Gottfried, opened his post-game news conference by saying, "Don't ask me how we did it."
Later, he added, "More than anything, you never know. Coaching is a crap shoot. It always is."
Kentucky, which suffered back-to-back losses in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1992, rolled snake eyes at crunch time.
Alabama not only lacked UK's multiple experiences under Final Four pressure, but no Tide player had ever played in an NCAA Tournament game.
But Alabama made the plays and Kentucky did not. UK slipped to 19-6 overall and 8-3 in the SEC.
Leading by a point in the final minute, UK seemed headed for a hard-fought victory when Jamaal Magloire blocked a Haginas jumper as the shot clock wound down. But Magloire blocked the shot too hard and teammate Saul Smith ill-advisedly tried to save the ball from going out of bounds.
Smith's save from the corner went to Haginas.
"It was unbelievable," Gottfried said of the save, "because the shot clock was winding down. My first thought was we're going to have to score in five seconds or so."
Haginas drove unchecked to basket and dunked to put Alabama ahead 59-58 with 23.8 seconds left.
Smith said he intended to save the ball to Magloire "who was right behind me."
Not expecting the save attempt, Magloire called it "one of those spur-of-the-moment ordeals."
UK Coach Tubby Smith voiced greater concern. "I was wondering where our defense was at the time," he said. "Especially playing Ball-Line Defense (which is based on the principle of staying between the ball and the basket). There should have been two or three players between him and the basket."
UK's lone defender in position to thwart Haginas, Scott Padgett, stood at the basket and watched the dunk. Padgett neither contested the shot nor attempted to take a charge.
"I didn't think he did anything, to be honest with you," Smith said of Padgett. "I think he backed out of the way."
Asked whether he preferred Padgett contest the shot or try to draw a charge in that situation, Smith said, "Well, you've got to do something."
Padgett, arguably UK's most competitive player and undeniably its most cooperative with the media, had little to say. When reporters finally got into the locker room afterward, they saw Padgett angrily packing his gym bag. As he walked out, Padgett said in hushed tones, "I ain't got anything to say. Quote me that it's my fault."
After Haginas dunked, Kentucky called timeout with 18.9 seconds left to set up a game-winning play.
Senor point guard Wayne Turner tried to deliver with his patented drive down the left side of the lane. But as he rose for the shot, he lost the ball in a collision with Alabama center Jeremy Hays.
Alabama point guard Chauncey Jones grabbed the loose ball and threw a baseball pass to Haginas, who hit a layup while being fouled by Saul Smith.
That put Alabama ahead 62-58 with 8.6 seconds left.
With the benefit of replays, television announcer Bob Kesling said Turner " got hammered. They didn't call it."
Neither side got as passionate as Kesling about the play.
"I thought I got fouled," Turner quietly said. "They didn't make the call. He got me on the wrist. But in a tough game like this, you're probably not going to get the call on the road."
Hays said he did not foul Turner. But he wasn't sure. "I'll tell you the truth, my adrenaline is running so much, I don't remember," he said. "I just know we got the ball."
Alabama, 13-11 overall and 3-8 in the SEC, had lost twice in the last second - literally in the last second - earlier this season. The Tide gladly accepted the benefit of a no call.
Told that Turner cried foul, Gottfried said, "Yeah, we've been there this season."
Despite Kentucky's superiority, Alabama hung tough with hustle. The Tide outrebounded the Cats and benefited from 20 UK turnovers. Alabama also got an unexpected career game from sophomore Terrance "Doc" Martin. Subbing for injured starter Brian Williams (the Tide's leading scorer at 15.4 ppg), Martin scored a career-high 20 points.
Martin's three-pointer with 2:16 left tied it at 56-56.
A Padgett put-back gave Kentucky a 58-56 lead with 1:54 left. But the Cats did not score again, did not get a shot to the rim again.
"We wanted to come out and play a great game after the loss (to Florida)," said center Mike Bradley, who along with Padgett led UK with 14 points. "But they were a tough, scrappy team. They were getting the loose balls. They were hitting the threes when they had to. They stayed around long enough to be in it at the end."