Date story was published: Sunday, January 29, 1984
When a deliberate-style team falls behind to Kentucky at Rupp Arena, it doesn't play catch-up. It plays "Catch-22."
Georgia found itself in that uncomfortable circumstance yesterday en route to a 64-40 defeat at the hands of the Wildcats.
UK, which moved into a share of first place in the Southeastern Conference, put Georgia in -- literally -- a no-win situation with an 18-0 scoring spurt early in the second half.
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That roll, the modus operandi in earlier UK victories over Brigham Young, Purdue and Alabama, left the patient Bulldogs with a most difficult decision.
"When we got down 10 or 12 points, we hold the ball and we lose the game," Georgia guard Vern Fleming said. "If you run with Kentucky, you get blown out."
Georgia, which had milked a rundown-the-45-second-shot-clock offense into a virtual standoff with UK for 25 minutes, chose to run with the Cats.
As Fleming suggested, the results were predictable. Georgia fell to 12-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.
Georgia abandoned its tempo game (and the Chinese water-torture loss it would have endured) and gave it a go. But, when the Bulldogs' shooting went cold (seven for 28 in the second half), UK could enjoy life in the fast lane with its 15th victory in 17 games and equal Auburn's SEC-leading 6-2 record.
Kentucky widened a three-point lead to a 50-29 margin during its decisive run. It was midway in the spurt, after UK had widened a 32-29 lead to 4029, that Georgia called time.
"We started ripping and running," said Gerald Crosby, Georgia's prime outside shooter.
What the Bulldogs failed to do while "ripping and running" was hit their shots. Georgia missed 14 straight shots and committed two turnovers to help Kentucky pull away.
The more Georgia misfired, the more Kentucky got out on the break.
"There's no way in the world we can rebound with them," Crosby said.
And the more Georgia missed, the more the Bulldogs grew anxious.
"They tried to get it all back at once," UK's Kenny Walker said of Georgia's self-destruction, "and we went on a tear."
Although devastating, UK's decisive roll was slow in building. Both teams thrashed their way through turnovers and missed shots for more than five minutes (producing a scoreless mishmash that went from the 15:18 mark to 9:54) until the Cats broke through.
It was during this time, with UK Coach Joe Hall inserting and removing Paul Andrews and Troy McKinley in his search for an outside scorer, that Georgia let opportunity pass.
As most UK opponents have done, Georgia settled into a sagging zone defense and invited outside jumpers, some as close as 15 feet from the basket. When the Cats couldn't hit them (UK's guards made seven of 21 shots), Georgia stayed within striking distance.
Kentucky went scoreless for more than five minutes early in the second half, but so did Georgia.
"We had a chance to exploit a weakness and we couldn't score," Georgia Coach Hugh Durham said.
Georgia went exactly 10 1/2 minutes without a point and more than 11 minutes without a basket.
About halfway through a basketless period that began after James Banks hit a jumper at the 15:45 mark (the only shot he made) and ended when Richard Corhen put back a rebound at 4:21, Georgia called time.
"When we got out of control, if we were ever in control, was when the lead went to about 12," said Durham, who called the time with 8:45 remaining and Georgia trailing 40-29. "You don't come in with the idea of holding down the score, but of a way to win. When we got behind by about 12, if we wanted to win we had to pick up the tempo. We wanted to run and get some baskets off the break before (Sam) Bowie and (Melvin) Turpin got back."
In the seesaw first half in which neither team led by more than five, UK played man-to-man defense.
The Cats switched to zone defenses in the second half.
The effects were devastating. In a 15-minute span, Georgia scored only two baskets and was outscored 32-5.
"It was much easier for us to get our shots against the man-to-man," Fleming said. "Against the zones, we're shooting over two 7-footers. That made it a lot tougher."
Fleming and Crosby scored 20 of Georgia's 24 first-half points. But, after intermission the two guards hit only one of 10 shots.
Another frustrated Bulldog was Banks. Georgia's second-leading scorer (17.1 points per game) made only one of nine shots from the field and finished with two points.
Banks wasn't effective against UK's man-to-man (he was guarded primarily by Walker) or zones.
"I was kind of hesitant in shooting instead of just stroking," the 6-foot-6 forward said. "It's tough when you penetrate and have to shoot over people who are 7-1 and 6-11 and good athletes, too."
Meanwhile, UK was building up a 23-12 rebounding edge in the second half and fast-breaking almost at will.
Turpin, who led all scorers with 18 points, dropped in three straight baskets to start UK on its 18-0 run. UK's second-half dominance allowed Hall to give Leroy Byrd his first action as a Wildcat. The 5-5 guard played the final 80 seconds, causing a roar from the crowd when he dribbled out of a halfcourt trap.
Byrd was credited with one rebound and one turnover.
Until UK took charge, Georgia had played about as well as it could, Durham said.
"The first 25 minutes, I couldn't have drawn it up any better," he said.
Riding the one-on-one moves and shooting of Crosby and Fleming, Georgia stayed even with its patient style. The Bulldogs took a 16-15 lead when Fleming went backdoor for a layup (and a goaltend on Turpin).
But back-to-back fastbreak baskets by Bowie and Walker got UK the lead for good with eight minutes remaining in the half.
The UK lead remained five points or less until the Cats lowered the boom in the second half.
"I come up with a lot of analogies and this is one I like," Durham said. ''Take Nolan Ryan. If his fastball drops from 95 mph to, say, 89 mph, he's still all right. We're like Phil Niekro. If he loses his knuckleball, he's in trouble.
"We're fragile. We can't win without playing our best."
Once again, UK proved it could win despite one part of its game being subpar. Roger Harden, back in the starting lineup after a one-game demotion, hit only two of nine shots.
Jim Master made three of eight with one of his baskets being a fastbreak layup.
Harden's accuracy from the field fell to 18.8 percent (six of 32) in eight league games and 34.6 percent (18 of 52) overall. Master fell to 38.1 percent (24 of 63) in the league and 41.7 percent (57 of 139) overall.
"In 28 years of coaching, I've never seen a slump like the one our guards have," Hall said. "The shots they're getting are excellent; ones they drill 80 percent in practice. If they weren't hitting in practice, the problem might be form.
"I think it gets in the back of their minds every time they shoot. Maybe Banks will have that now."