Date story was published: Saturday, January 14, 1984
AUBURN, Ala. -- It took a 272-pound wrecking ball, but the Twin Towers were finally razed here last night.
Charles Barkley played the role of the human wrecking ball, staging his own rural renewal as Auburn leveled No. 2 Kentucky by a gaudy 19 points.
As imposing as Barkley's physique may be, it's the mind games he plays with Melvin Turpin and Sam Bowie that helped set up the Tiger upset.
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Apparently recovered from a debilitating back injury, Barkley still didn't start against the Wildcats at Memorial Coliseum.
Sophomore Vern Strickland was Barkley's warm-up act last night, but Mr. "B" came in at 6:17 of the first half and stayed for 30 destructive minutes.
Barkley scored 21 points, raked off a team-high 10 rebounds, doled out a like number of assists and was credited with two steals to inspire Sonny Smith's Tigers. But it was during a particularly lethal two-minute stretch in the second half that he did most of his damage.
The Cats, down 41-34 at the half, had closed to within three points at 4441 with 17:58 left in the game. Then Winston Bennett was called for a charge, Turpin inexplicably threw the ball out of bounds, Bowie eerily lobbed the ball into the middle to a phantom teammate and Dicky Beal walked.
Tell me Barkley doesn't work his magic on the Cats.
"I just get high when I play Kentucky," explained Barkley. "Hey," he smiled, "we should be No. 1 in the polls (UK is No. 1 in the UPI poll). They put Miami up there when they beat Nebraska, so I'm serious -- we should be No. 1."
Barkley, who broke into a broad smile when Turpin launched the ball out of bounds, said he had been looking forward to a rematch with the Cats all year.
Last season the heavyweight champion of Auburn was thrown out of the Kentucky game here less than two minutes into the first half after an altercation with UK's Charles Hurt. That fact was not lost on the press either, as reporters were furnished with copies of last year's Kentucky-Auburn box scores.
Last night, however, the Barkley Ball, as in wrecking, took its toll.
"I've been thinking about this game since the beginning of the year," admitted Barkley. "We knew Kentucky was the best team in the country."
Asked what spell he seems to cast over the Cats, Barkley spelled it ''teamwork".
"I don't think I had that much effect on Turpin. He did everything he was capable of tonight. I just think we had a good overall team effort."
Smith, when quizzed about the strange effect Barkley exercises against Kentucky, paused for a moment.
"I don't know, I really can't explain it other than to say it's a situation where both players -- Charles Barkley and Melvin Turpin -- seem to intimidate one another.
"You know, Kentucky gets a lot more publicity than we do, so you hear more about what Charles Barkley does to Melvin Turpin, but let me tell you that Barkley doesn't get his regular shots against Melvin, either.
"It's just the great abilities of two players to block shots," said Smith.
Usually, Smith doesn't lecture his players before a game. But he took Barkley aside last night.
"I talked Kentucky basketball to Charles. And that's playing aggressive defense with intelligence. That's a UK tradition, and I think that Barkley and the rest of the team played that way tonight."
Although the victory was one of the biggest in Auburn's basketball history, Smith was generous in his post-game assessment.
"Kentucky was a tired team tonight," said Smith. "They've played three games this week and I think the schedule got them."
Barkley, a disarming fellow off the court as well, said the Tigers respected the Wildcats but were not in awe of them.
"I just think we played as well as we could. Kentucky has a great team and we were nervous before the game, but we weren't scared.
"I was surprised by the final margin, but we played great defense all night. Our game plan was to take it to them and if they beat us, so be it.
"We wanted to stay close at the half and still be in the ball game at the 10-minute mark," Barkley added.
The Tigers enjoyed a 60-51 lead midway through the second half.
"This is a big win for us," said Barkley, after leaving the twin towers and Kentucky's No. 2 ranking in the dust. "Now, I think we can play with anybody."