Date story was published: Tuesday, February 28, 1984
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Kentucky was supposed to do the clinching here last night, but it was Tennessee that did the celebrating.
Turning into a clinch mob of its own, Tennessee whipped Kentucky 63-58 to delay UK's march to the Southeastern Conference championship.
A victory here last night would have assured the Wildcats no worse than a tie for their 35th SEC title. Falling to 21-4 overall and 12-4 in the SEC, one game ahead of Louisiana State, UK must do its clinching at home this week against Mississippi and LSU.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Tennessee, riding a 19-4 spurt midway through the second half, assured itself of sixth place -- and the final first-round bye in the upcoming SEC Tournament.
While Kentucky remained one game shy of the title, Tennessee was anything but bashful. During the decisive second-half runout, the Volunteers swarmed UK and held the Cats to a single basket over a six-minute span. That spree erased a 33-31 UK lead and vaulted Tennessee ahead 50-37 with less than seven minutes to go. All that remained were the clinching free throws for Tennessee and UK's annual long march back to its Stokely Athletics Center locker room. Last night's loss was the Cats' sixth straight here. By most accounts, it was one they richly deserved.
"Yeah, oh yeah, they definitely beat us," said point guard Dicky Beal.
Surprisingly, Tennessee beat UK by playing man-to-man defense. Although giving up a total of eight inches in height along the front line, the Vols held UK's big men in check. Melvin Turpin, who exploded for 42 points here last year, made only six of 15 shots and finished with 13 points last night. Sam Bowie added a team-high 18 points, but most of his shots came from the foul line and beyond.
"They just played their defense to perfection," Bowie said. "You may have noticed where my shots were coming from."
Kenny Walker chipped in 14 points, but eight of those came in the final 1:46 when UK was desperately trying to get back into the game.
"I was really surprised how they played man-to-man," Beal said, ''especially because they're smaller. We were going to our strength and they stopped it."
Tennessee broke the game open in the second half with the help of two UK turnovers. With Tennessee trailing 33-31, Willie Burton picked off Jim Master's pass, and on UK's next possession Turpin fumbled away a feed inside and the Vols raced for another layup. Burton got that shot, too, and a free throw when he was pushed from behind by Walker.
"There wasn't anything planned when we called time (just prior to the steals with 14:37 remaining)," said Dan Federmann. "It was just a steal and a layup. Then, another steal and a layup. All of a sudden, everybody started pressing more, the crowd got into the game and everything snowballed from there."
The avalanche continued when Rob Jones spun around Bowie and dunked, pushing the lead to 38-33.
After Bowie threw in a jumper, Federmann soft-touched a left-handed shot into the basket. Jones was given another hoop when Bowie was called for goaltending, and Fred Jenkins took off on another steal, flipping in a reverse layup under James Blackmon.
A leg cramp sent Jenkins out of the game on the play, but the rest of the Vols were flying high.
"We felt them get a little lax," Burton said. "They got kind of timid on offense."
Shortly after Jenkins left, Burton blocked a Master shot and Jones was off on another fastbreak dunk.
That shot pushed Tennessee up 49-37 with seven minutes remaining.
The Vol lead grew to 13 (50-37) when Tony White made a free throw. UK got no closer than five thereafter -- and that came in the final 10 seconds.
"We've gotten fat over the last few days," UK Coach Joe Hall said. "We've got to come ready to play every game. We just didn't do that. We looked a little flat in warmups and it carried over into the game."
However, UK held the upper hand in the early going. After trading baskets in the first seven minutes, the Cats switched to a 2-3 zone and took control. The Vols made only 34.4 percent of their first-half shots. While Tennessee was missing, UK was riding Bowie's hot hand from outside to a 22-14 lead.
Then, with a chance to blow the game open, UK went nearly scoreless in the final 6:25. UK got only a Turpin free throw during that span. Tennessee outscored UK 8-1 in that period and closed to within 23-22 at halftime.
"We didn't do a lot in the first half, but the second half was ours," DeVoe said.
When Tennessee put on the pressure in the second half, UK wilted.
"I guess only our fans believed we could do this," Burton said. "We proved millions of people wrong. It wasn't something they did to lose. It was something we did. We did a good job of containing the big men. Put it any way you want in the papers. We beat Kentucky."
Last night's loss snapped UK's five-game winning streak. Tennessee has now won four straight.