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CATS PULL OUT 61-58 WIN OVER LSU

Date story was published: Saturday, March 8, 1986

In such desperate times, Kentucky knew whom to go to: Roger Harden.

For the third time this season - and second against LSU - Harden delivered.

Last night he hit a 20-footer to give UK a 61-58 victory over LSU in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

UK improved its record to 28-3 and gained a spot in today's finals.

The Wildcats will play Alabama, which eliminated Cinderella Mississippi State 77-65 in last night's other semifinal.

Today's title game is scheduled to tip off at 2:35 p.m.

Harden's shot brought back memories of his 22-footer that beat LSU 54-52 in January.

This time it concluded what might have been the most thrilling of UK's 139 victories in Rupp Arena.

John Williams scored the last of his 28 points to cut UK's lead to 59-58 with 53 seconds remaining.

After a LSU timeout, UK worked the game clock down to 27 seconds before calling time.

However, the Wildcats appeared unable to get a shot once they broke the huddle.

In seeming desperation, Harden launched a shot from near the left sideline with eight seconds left. It hit nothing but net.

LSU, which fell to 22-11, made a critical turnover after a timeout with 1:06 remaining.

UK was clinging to a 59-56 lead when Don Redden inbounded a ball between Williams and Anthony Wilson. Neither LSU player could get to the ball as it harmlessly bounced out of bounds on the other side of the court.

The drama continued when Kenny Walker missed the front end of a one-and- one with 1:04 left.

Williams, who had only 10 points and eight rebounds in two previous games against UK here, then hit a 13-footer to bring LSU within one with 53 seconds left.

UK's long march to today's final began with six minutes left and the Wildcats trailing 52-47.

The Wildcats' rally was built on a series of acrobatic shots.

Ed Davender double-clutched on a 15-footer and hit it with 5:51 to start the comeback.

Winston Bennett double-clutched on another 15-footer to bring UK within 52-51 with 5:17 to go.

After LSU built its lead back to five (56-51), James Blackmon stole a rebound and tucked in Walker's missed free throw to cut the lead to 56-53 with 3:54 left.

UK took the lead for good with 2:10 remaining when Bennett hit a jumper from the far right corner with the shot clock down to its final seconds. The shot put Kentucky ahead 57-56.

John Williams continued his gamelong personal scoring barrage to keep LSU ahead as the second half rolled on, emotional minute after emotional minute.

In one three-minute stretch, Williams hit three shots that showed the versatile talents that had previously been missing for Rupp Arena faithful.

With 10:37 remaining, Williams pivoted from 17 feet away, double-pumped in midair and banked home a shot that cut UK's 43-40 lead to one.

On LSU's next possession, Williams posted up and flipped in a semi-hook to give the Tigers a 44-43 lead with 9:41 left.

After Derrick Taylor hit from the baseline to push the lead to three, Williams kept it there with a layup.

The shot gave Williams half of LSU's 48 points.

Kentucky remembered it had Walker on its team in the early moments of the second half, and the Wildcats stabilized a leaky first-half performance.

Walker, who went without a basket in the first 20 minutes, got the ball in the low post in four of the Wildcats' first five possessions of the second half. He turned them into two free throws and a layup for himself.

Walker's pass back out to Harden for a foul-line jumper put Kentucky ahead 33-32 with 16:58 remaining. It was UK's first lead since 4-2.

The first half saw UK come down from the heights of its performance against Mississippi Thursday night.

The Wildcats hit only 38 percent of its first-half shots last night, down considerably from the 57.4 percent blitzing of Mississippi.

Particularly damaging was a stretch over more than eight minutes in the middle of the half that saw Kentucky hit only one of 11 shots.

The Wildcats were only slightly better from the free throw-line, making two of six in that stretch. Included in the dry spell were two misses in the front end of bonuses.

However, UK stayed in the game because LSU was ineffective, too. The Tigers had only eight points during Kentucky's hapless eight-minute spell and could only expand a 12-10 lead to 20-14.

Williams was the catalyst for LSU offensively. He surpassed his career scoring totals against Kentucky at Rupp Arena in the game's first 16 minutes.

Williams had 12 points in the half, including back-to-back baskets that gave LSU its 20-14 margin, the Tigers' largest lead of the half.

Curiously, both teams began well offensively. UK hit three of its first five shots, including two perimeter jumpers by Roger Harden.

LSU hit three of its first four.

When Winston Bennett hit a foul-line jumper at the 14:44 mark, UK trailed 12-10 and appeared set for a clash of precision offenses.

Then both teams went ice cold.

After Bennett's basket, UK didn't score again until Ed Davender hit a 15- footer at the 9:40 mark. During the span, UK missed three shots, committed three turnovers and Bennett missed two free throws.

LSU, however, had to wait even longer for a score.

After Ricky Blanton hit two free throws with 14:24 left, expanding the Tiger lead to 14-10, LSU didn't score again until Williams hit a perimeter jumper with 8:53 left. The shot put LSU ahead 16-14, a lead the Tigers milked to the locker room.

UK's first-half offense missed two elements that had helped it most of this season. Blackmon hit only one of six shots (a fast-break layup) and had just four points at intermission.

The Wildcats also didn't get a lift from one of its reserves. Rob Lock, Cedric Jenkins and Richard Madison combined for one point: Lock's free throw.

Also ineffective was Walker, who got off only two shots in the half. He missed both: a shot inside and an 18-footer.

If there was a bright side, it was the first half's final seconds.

Harden hit a 22-footer with six seconds remaining. It was a sign of things to come.

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