Date story published: Sunday, December 22, 2002
LOUISVILLE -- For the second straight game, victory or defeat depended upon how Hemingway defined courage: grace under pressure. Or crisp last-minute execution, in the sporting vernacular.
The whims of the basketball gods played a role, too. The mix enabled Kentucky and Indiana to stage another of their routinely compelling hoop melodramas.
UK won by a deceptive score of 70-64. Six lead changes in the final 2:15 better described the taut give-and-take. The double technical fouls and ejection of emotional Indiana coach Mike Davis served to punctuate the competition with a question mark when a exclamation point seemed more fitting.
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With Kentucky ahead 65-64, Davis lost his cool -- and cost his team any chance for victory -- by charging onto the court in the final seconds to protest a no-call. The IU coach angrily jabbed the air after his star freshman, Bracey Wright, fell to the floor after his driving shot was blocked by Jules Camara.
Television replays were inconclusive at best. But the double technicals on Davis, who continued to protest after the first technical as Wright tried to calm referee Bert Smith, had a clear impact. Keith Bogans made five of six free throws -- four attempts for the technicals and two on the foul that followed Wright's shot -- with 2.6 seconds left to set the final score.
Neither Wright, who scored 18 points for previously undefeated Indiana, nor Camara, who came through in the clutch despite losing his starting role, claimed to know what happened on the play.
"Once I went up, I saw a lot of white jerseys," Wright said. "I saw arms. Then I just saw myself almost going into a cameraman."
Camara, hardly a roughhouse player, claimed innocence.
"I thought I had a clear block," he said. "He lost control and fell to the floor."
However, Wright said Bogans told him it was a foul.
Bogans did not deny Wright's claim.
"I did tell him that," the UK guard said. "I thought he got hit a little bit. But you're not going to get that call at that point of a game."
Teammate Chuck Hayes echoed the thought with unimpeachable logic. "Ain't a foul unless the ref calls it," he said before noting that whistles usually do not determine games. "Let players come to the end of games. Let them be the game."
Kentucky, 6-2 and surely headed northward again in The Associated Press poll, won with players making plays.
Camara, scoreless in the game's first 38 minutes, scored two straight baskets down the stretch. The first, a foul-line jumper, put UK ahead 61-60 with 1:58 left. The second, a dunk following the last two of IU forward Jeff Newton's game-high 24 points, put the Cats ahead 63-62 with 1:06 left.
Wright put Indiana ahead 64-63 when Estill failed to secure the rebound of a missed Newton free throw. Wright's put-back put the Hoosiers ahead 64-63 with 24.8 seconds left.
Kentucky called time three seconds later to set its plan. The Cats chose to go inside to Estill, who had had two of his first three shots of the game blocked by IU center George Leach. Those blocks sent UK spiraling to 2-for-16 shooting to start the game. Estill had not scored since the first half, but he somehow got a heavily contested post-up shot to go in with 12.7 seconds left. It put the Cats ahead 65-64.
"I'm always going to have confidence," Estill said of a clutch basket that followed a night of heavy labor. "I know Coach has confidence that I can score. He kept coming to me all night. So I was expecting it."
Gerald Fitch, who played 35 minutes despite ceding the point-guard position for large chunks of time to the newly activated Cliff Hawkins, said UK calls the play "41." On the play, the Cats throw the ball to the opposite side of the court as Estill gets post-up position on his defender. When the ball returns to Estill's side, he should be in position to receive the pass.
"We executed it to perfection," Fitch said.
Although Newton scored 18 of Indiana's final 21 points and finished with a game-high 24, the Hoosiers asked Wright to make the big shot.
Perhaps recalling a former walk-on's clutch shot that enabled Michigan State to beat Kentucky last weekend, UK's Erik Daniels saw Wright's drive and Davis' emotional meltdown as a balancing of the scales.
"I guess it was our time to win," Daniels said.