Date story was published: Friday, February 14, 1986
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On Jan. 29 in Baton Rouge, La., Kentucky's Roger Harden hit a 25-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Louisiana State 54-52. Last night the shot was a little shorter and came a few seconds sooner, but the result was the same - a two-point UK victory.
This time the victim was Alabama, which fell to the Wildcats 73-71 in a Southestern Conference basketball showdown when the UK guard hit a 22-footer with six seconds left in the game.
UK and Alabama called four timeouts setting their offense and defense for the final seconds. The victory was saved when Derrick McKey and freshman Michael Ansley collided at the foul line reaching for Jim Farmer's inbounds pass from midcourt.
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Ed Davender cradled the loose ball and with it UK's command of the SEC race.
Harden's shot gave UK a two-game lead with five to play in the conference. The Wildcats improved to 12-1 in the league and 21-3 overall. Alabama, the only serious challenger standing between UK and a 36th SEC title, fell to 10-3 in the league and 17-5 overall.
UK's dramatic victory broke Alabama's heart. Cheered on by the school's first capacity crowd of the season (15,043), the Tide had battled nearly the entire game to get even.
Alabama finally tied it with 33 seconds remaining when center McKey tipped home Terry Coner's partially blocked 12-footer.
Another McKey tip-in, this one off a lob pass from Coner, was sandwiched around Davender's miss on the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 43 seconds left.
The two McKey baskets erased a 71-67 Kentucky lead.
UK righted a sinking ship with a timeout at the 14:20 mark. The Wildcats hadn't scored a point in the previous three minutes and had seen a 46-38 lead become a 47-46 deficit.
The timeout was good medicine. James Blackmon hit a jumper to allow Kentucky to regain the lead and start an eight-point run that pushed the Wildcats ahead 54-47 with 11:59 left.
Alabama closed within four three times in the next two minutes.
However, Kenny Walker's slick three-point play gave UK a temporary breather at 63-56. Walker scooped the ball under the basket, using the goal to shield the shot from McKey, the SEC's leading shot-blocker. The layup and free throw put UK ahead by seven with 9:16 left.
No lead was safe in this one, however. Alabama promptly ran off six straight points, closing to 63-62 with 7:25 left and setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
Kentucky took an eight-point lead, 46-38, in the early moments of the second half.
Blackmon, who enjoyed a 12-point first half, hit a baseline jumper, the fourth straight UK shot to fall, giving the Wildcats the eight-point lead with 17:26 remaining.
However, Alabama got back into it when Buck Johnson made two free throws with 16:41 left. Winston Bennett picked up his fourth foul and left the game. Jim Farmer's drive cut the lead to 46-42.
After a television timeout at the 15:37 mark, Coner was fouled on a drive and hit two free throws.
Alabama took a 47-46 lead, concluding a run of nine straight points, when McKey regained possession of the ball after it was knocked loose and hit a layup while being fouled. The three-point play put the Tide ahead 47-46.
Contributions from some unusual places powered Kentucky to a 38-35 halftime lead.
Blackmon's 12 points in the half was more than he has had in all but six games this season.
UK also got six points from Paul Andrews, a total that matched the seldom- used junior's season high.
The Wildcats needed those points because, as expected, Alabama took Walker out of the game with a collapsing zone defense. Walker, who entered the game with a 19-point scoring average, didn't have a basket off the set offense in the first 20 minutes. His only hoop of the half was a 8-footer from the side off a fast break.
Johnson, Alabama's leading scorer, enjoyed a big half. He led all scorers with 14 points, six coming off lob passes, to quickly surpass the 10 points he scored in the teams' first game last month in Lexington.
Coner, Bama's point guard, contributed 11 points, including a three-point- play drive that put Alabama ahead 33-32 with 3:10 left in the half.
Until that point, UK had led after inching ahead 13-12 on one of Blackmon's six perimeter jumpers.
The lead grew to as much as five, 21-16, when Andrews hit the third of his three outside shots.
Andrews, who had only one field goal in more than a month, was inserted into the game with 12:40 remaining after Davender missed two jumpers over the Alabama zone.
UK was ahead 32-28 with 4:06 left in the half thanks to Bennett's three- point play. Bennett fought for a third rebound and slipped it home while being fouled.
Later, Coner's three-point play gave Alabama its first lead in more than nine minutes. The Tide could have stayed ahead had it made more than three of eight free throws.
Blackmon hit another jumper to give UK a 34-33 lead.