Date story was published: Sunday, January 6, 1985
It seemed fitting that one team should lead from wire to wire at Rupp Arena yesterday.
What with the newfangled Skycam television camera, an experimental remote control eye in the sky, in operation above the court, suspended by a network of wires.
But - surprise! - the team that led from start to finish was Kentucky, that collection of potential we were all shedding tears over a few weeks ago.
Those same Wildcats jumped on North Carolina State early yesterday and went on to beat the nation's No. 17 team 78-62.
UK, now riding a heady five-game winning streak, had reasons aplenty to lose. The Wildcats continued to shoot badly - 39.3 percent this time. And they were outrebounded 32-26.
Kentucky was even shorthanded. Freshman Richard Madison, who had participated in all nine games this season, was benched in a disciplinary move by Coach Joe Hall.
Still, UK refused to lose.
Afterward, Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State coach, wished he could say the same thing.
''Neither team played very well," Valvano said, "but we played worse."
Turnovers and a slipshod first half doomed N.C. State to its third straight defeat. The Wolfpack, now 7-4, committed 17 turnovers in the first half alone. That kind of ball handling put N.C. State behind by as much as 15 in the first half.
The Wolfpack's foul trouble and UK's deadly free-throw shooting (34 of 37 for the game) kept the Kentucky lead at eight points or more thereafter.
"It was the third (game) in a row that we thought would be extremely tough for this ballclub," Hall said, "but they did what they had to do to win."
What the Wildcats did, as they did against No. 11 Kansas and Auburn earlier this week, was play in-your-face defense at one end and look for Kenny Walker on the other.
Walker continued to excel. Yesterday's numbers: 28 points, eight rebounds, three blocked shots.
"Kenny Walker is the best player we have faced this season," Valvano said. "He is tough to handle."
Earlier in the week, Hall billed N.C. State as the best team Kentucky would face up to this point. The Wolfpack hardly looked the part.
In the game's first three minutes, N.C. State missed three shots and committed two turnovers. UK zipped to a 6-0 lead (two jumpers by Walker and an 18-footer by Roger Harden) and never looked back.
The Wolfpack turned the ball over five times in the last three minutes of the first half. During that time UK reeled off nine straight points to assume a 38-23 lead and control of the game.
James Blackmon had six of his 14 points during Kentucky's 9-0 breakout. Each of his points during this period (two baskets and a pair of free throws) followed an N.C. State turnover.
Freshman Ed Davender completed the spurt by picking off a pass on the perimeter and dashing downcourt. He was fouled at the other end and sank one free throw to increase UK's lead to 15 with 22 seconds remaining in the half.
Davender had a nearly identical steal in the second half, moving across the foul circle and into a passing lane. On that one, he drove unmolested for a layup to push Kentucky's lead to 17 (55-38) with 12:01 to play.
"All the guards are free to make that move," Hall said. "Ed's just better at it. He anticipates better; he wants it a little more. He's reading the floor situation a little better."
Seconds after Davender's second-half steal, Troy McKinley made two free throws to give the Wildcats their largest lead, 57-38.
"This was our poorest outing of the season," Valvano said. "There are two telling statistics. Kentucky had 37 free throws and that is a shocking stat. We had 25 turnovers.
"That is a bad combination to deal with."
Free throw after free throw doomed any comeback hopes N.C. State had. UK made 20 of 21 free throws in the second half. That kind of accuracy kept Kentucky comfortably ahead and Valvano screaming for justice from the referees. While UK was shooting all those free throws, the Wolfpack got only six chances at the line. N.C. State made four.
Particularly annoying to Valvano was the fact that when UK began shooting the bonus (with 11:25 remaining in the game), the Wildcats had not yet been charged with a foul. For the half, Kentucky was whistled for just four fouls and Valvano counted out each call for all to hear. "That's two, that's two," he yelled, holding up two fingers, when the Cats were called for their second team foul with 5:21 to go.
Despite the turnovers and free-throw disadvantage, N.C. State mounted a second-half comeback. Lorenzo Charles' 19 points kept the Wolfpack in the game early.
When the comeback came, it was a trapping half-court defense and some inside-outside offense from Russell Pierre on the low post and Ernie Myers on the wing that brought N.C. State back.
The traps, which were not used until about 14 minutes remained in the game, seemed to speed up the tempo and jog N.C. State into gear.
With a fast break suddenly working, the Wolfpack went inside to Pierre, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, for three straight baskets. Another basket by Pierre, who finished with 17 points, cut UK's lead to nine (61-52) with more than seven minutes remaining.
A dunk by Pierre brought N.C. State to within eight (70-62) with 2:53 to go.
When Harden missed from the top of the key, the Wolfpack had a chance to regain possession.
But McKinley, who had been inserted into the game seconds earlier, got the rebound and was eventually fouled.
He made both free throws and the Cats were home free.