Date story was published: December. 4, 1983
Kentucky came to bury one of the Caesars of college basketball. Instead, it had to praise them.
The Wildcats, pretty imperial themselves and ranked No. 1 to boot, were a 17-point favorite to smash Indiana yesterday. What unfolded left UK glad just to outlast the Hoosiers 59-54 and improve their record to 2-0. Indiana is now 1-2.
It was move and countermove, tit for tat and all the other elements that make basketball one of the most nerve-racking sports, and Kentucky-Indiana one of the most sporting match-ups in basketball.
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Despite starting two freshmen and two sophomores, Indiana still neutralized Kentucky's front line.
The Wildcats, conquerors of Louisville a week ago, displayed a defensive intensity similar to what scattered the Cardinals. UK forced a whopping 24 turnovers yesterday, but the game remained on the line until the very end.
Once there, it was left to freshmen to decide the 27th meeting between two of the kings of college basketball as UK turned to James Blackmon's one-on-one forays in the final seven minutes. And the rookie from -- of all places -- Marion, Ind., responded. Blackmon scored five points, including three clutch free throws, down the stretch as Indiana freshman Steve Alford, shackled with four fouls, tried in vain to play no-fault defense.
"Blackmon was super," said Joe Hall, UK's relieved coach. "He was the only guy we had who played."
The rest of the Wildcats, he indicated, were resting on their Louisville laurels.
"There was a complacency there, Hall said. "After 10 games and you're on a roll, you can expect that. After one game, well, it certainly shouldn't be there. The praise we got (for beating Louisville) was too much."
No, it wasn't a defensive classic. More like a defensive struggle.
"This game, from the beginning to the end, was played at the defensive end with two really contrasting thoughts being applied," IU Coach Bobby Knight said. "Kentucky pressured us from outside to try and make it difficult for us to handle the basketball and get it to people in a position to score. Our defense wanted to take away the inside play.
"While they were pressuring, we were jamming."
Moments later, after allowing about two seconds for questions from the media, he rushed out of the interview room.
Even with a team in transition, Knight and the Hoosiers made yesterday's game a typical Kentucky-Indiana encounter. It had all the usual elements, including a Knight tirade that the referees ended with a technical foul.
Yesterday, Knight was arguing about a television timeout. They are supposed to be 90 seconds long. With 7:47 remaining in the first half, the break lasted two minutes because UK was slow in returning to the floor.
Knight told the referees they should hit UK with a technical. The refs told Knight to sit down.
Instead, when he reached his team, Knight turned and toppled his chair with a soccer-style swing of his right leg.
That brought the technical. But, it got more complicated.
UK's Jim Master had been replaced by Blackmon at the start of the timeout. When Hall saw the technical signaled, he hurried Master, a career 86.4-percent free-throw shooter, back into the game.
Master, who would later miss two free throws in the final 30 seconds and hit only one of six shots from the field, missed both technical free throws.
"I just think it's embarrassing," Master said of his erratic performance from the line, "especially the technicals when you're out there alone."
But, Master's return to the game was an illegal substitution. That resulted in a technical foul against UK. However, Master's trip to the line was what the NCAA rulebook terms a "correctable error."
Winston Bennett corrected it, sinking both free throws.
Then, Alford, who along with fellow freshman Marty Simmons combined for 36 points, made one technical free throw at the other end.
When the confusion had cleared, UK had a 24-19 lead. Indiana had the ball. What the 23,864 fans in Rupp Arena and national CBS television had was the resumption of nip-and-tuck basketball.
UK led by as many as eight only once, 56-48, with 2:15 remaining. Missed free throws -- the Cats missed seven of 10 in the final 1:49 -- thickened the plot.
As Louisville did a week ago, Indiana started strong, posting a 12-7 lead in the first six minutes. But, unlike the Cardinals, the Hoosiers hung tough throughout.
The first half was a duel of man-to-man defenses. IU got a break when Melvin Turpin picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and had to sit out much of the rest of the first half.
The Hoosiers collapsed on Turpin and, when the 6-foot-11 senior sat down, on Sam Bowie, who shifted from the high to the low post.
"Indiana always sags," Master said, "and my man doesn't sag at all."
IU's Stew Robinson shadowed Master, limiting UK's outside ace to four points.
Only Roger Harden was left unguarded. After a prodding from Hall, the sophomore point guard began taking open 15-footers. When Harden hit three straight, UK was righted.
The Cats took the lead midway through the half and increased it to seven points, 28-21, when Blackmon hit back-to-back baskets.
Still, despite committing 15 turnovers in the half, IU was in position to take a lead into the locker room at halftime. Poor shooting (11 of 30) kept UK from breaking the game open. Alford's jumper from the baseline with five seconds remaining gave IU a 32-31 halftime lead.
"Our first seven possessions, we had two turnovers and five shots from 15 to 18 feet." Hall said. "We couldn't get the ball inside, and we weren't patient enough."
UK started over in the second half. On offense, the Cats moved Turpin to the foul-line area. There, he found open jumpers. Turpin, who finished with 11 points, hit three 15-footers.
Kenny Walker, who admitted that his back was still tight and score, twice left the game in the second half. With 17:35 remaining, he was hit in the mid-section while fighting for a rebound. With 3:44 to go, he banged a knee off the floor and had to hobble off.
When he wasn't hurting, Walker did the posting up low. Although he hit only four of 10 shots, Walker's two turn-arounds got the Cats off to a good start in the second half.
Defensively, UK scrapped its man-to-man and zoned Indiana. The Cats went to a 2-3 zone with 15:57 remaining and the game tied at 36.
In the next six minutes, Indiana made only one basket and fell behind by four.
A mix of halfcourt traps and a 1-3-1 zone had UK ahead 48-46 with 7:33 remaining.
It was then that Hall put the ball and the game in Blackmon's hands.
"We wanted to isolate Alford, who had four fouls," Hall said. "We felt James could get his shot."
Blackmon minimized his role, saying UK had practiced the offense, called a 1-4, in the pre-season.
"I'm just trying to do the best I can," Blackmon said.
Did he find it intimidating to be in such a crucial situation?
"No," said UK's top Cat with 14 points.
Blackmon shined at the foul line, too. His three free throws in the final 41 seconds made up for two misses each by Bennett, Master and Bowie.
"I can't explain it," Hall said of the misfires. "We should be better. We just weren't mentally into it."