Date story was published: Sunday, November 30, 1986
Nobody said this season was going to be easy. Last night's opener proved everyone may be uncomfortably correct.
Shorthanded Kentucky needed Irv Thomas to swish a 10-footer with 18 seconds remaining to squirm past Austin Peay 71-69.
Thomas' winning shot, the product of a penetrating move and pass by freshman flash Rex Chapman, gave UK a 70-69 lead.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Kentucky avoided the embarrassment of losing to the team that had lost to tiny Centre College Friday night only after Vincent Brooks' 17-footer missed with three seconds remaining.
Paul Andrews grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit one free throw with a second remaining.
Fittingly, on a night when stubborn Austin Peay wouldn't go away, that margin wasn't entirely safe even after the Governors threw away the inbounds pass.
After a UK timeout, Austin Peay intercepted the Wildcats' inbounds pass and got off a three-quarter court heave.
It didn't reach the three-point line.
Only then could UK become 1-0. Austin Peay fell to 0-2.
"We're just happy to win," a relieved UK coach Eddie Sutton said. "I'm afraid that's the way it will be all season."
The lack of an inside attack, which should have surprised no one, hurt UK. The Cats were outrebounded 38-27 and had only one basket all night off a post- up move.
"We had no inside game whatsoever," said Sutton, who immediately softened his appraisal. "Well, let me say our inside game didn't give us much."
Turnovers also plagued Kentucky. The Cats had 25 in a mistake-filled opener. Austin Peay had 28.
The saving grace, of course, was that Kentucky won.
"I'm not real happy," Sutton said. "But I'd be ready to commit hari-kari if we had lost."
UK narrowly missed that calamity when Brooks missed.
Austin Peay had called timeout with 11 seconds remaining to set up the last shot. Coach Lake Kelly, the former UK assistant, said the plan was for a post- up move by Darryl Bedford, a hefty 6-foot-8 forward.
The Governors were supposed to swing the ball around the perimeter and have Bedford cut across the lane to receive the pass.
However, Chapman overplayed Brooks and cut off his attempt to dribble across the court.
"He (Chapman) must have smelled out the play," Bedford said.
Not so, Chapman admitted.
"I was just playing him straight up," Chapman said. "I was looking for the shot. He hadn't made a pass all night."
Brooks couldn't shake Chapman and finally spun and threw up an off-balanced shot.
It bounced off the left side.
Afterward, neither Brooks, a skinny sophomore, nor Bedford wanted to hear about moral victories.
When the suggestion was made to Brooks, whose 10 points made him one of four double-figure scorers for Austin Peay, he said sarcastically, "Yeah," and stared at the floor.
Added Bedford: "We had it. We let it get away."
Three-pointers, which were ignored in the firste 30 minutes, fueled Austin Peay's comeback in the final eight minutes. UK had a 60-50 lead with 8:08 left.
The Governors hit four three-pointers in the final 7:40. All, Kelly admitted, were ad-lib plays. "I was ignoring the three-pointer all pre-season hoping it would go away," the Austin Peay coach said.
Bedford hit a pair of three-pointers, the second cutting Kentucky's lead to 62-61 with 4:17 remaining.
"My big man wasn't guarding me out there," said Bedford, who provided a reason. "I don't think you'll see many centers shooting three-pointers."
Brooks, who had a trio of three-pointers in the final 10 minutes, made the third one worth four points when he was knocked to the floor by Ed Davender.
Brooks made the free throw to complete the four-point play and put Austin Peay ahead 69-68 with 40 seconds remaining.
It was the visitors' first lead since 2-0.
Kentucky did not call time. Instead, the Wildcats ran their offense. With about 20 seconds remaining, Chapman cut into the lane, drew the defense to him and passed off to a wide-open Thomas for the winner.
Kentucky appeared ready to blow the game open several times.
With 11 minutes remaining, the Cats enjoyed a 55-43 edge and seemed poised to dispatch the Governors. The troubling thing was it could have easily been more.
Three times UK's weak inside game was exposed as the Wildcats missed shots from the low post.
The Cats were also guilty of foolish turnovers, such as Chapman breezing for a fastbreak layup and deciding to flip a behind the back pass to a trailing Richard Madison. Austin Peay intercepted.
"We probably won't face any better defense all season than we faced tonight," Sutton said. "They showed great intensity, especially after last night (the loss to Centre). They probably practiced all week for us."
Bedford played only seven minutes against Centre. He said he had a headache and "my stomach was all messed up."
The first half was a roller coaster ride of chills, spills (30 turnovers) and even a technical foul on Sutton.
The UK coach was hit with a technical when he charged 10 feet onto the court after Madison had been roughed up on a low-post shot.
The Kentucky coach had to be restrained by assistant James Dickey. While Austin Peay's Lawrence Mitchell shot the free throws, Dickey bent in front of the seated Sutton and seemed to be consoling him.
"Three straight times when we had a chance to break the game open we got bumped and banged around," Sutton said. "A lot of times, it's the no-calls that hurt you.
"The game was poorly officiated. They officiated about the way we played."
Mitchell made both technical free throws. He had been fouled on a fast- break drive while Sutton charged the court, and he made a third free throw.
The three free throws cut UK's lead to 34-31.
However, earlier, UK had squandered a 22-10 lead when it was guilty of two turnovers in a 30-second span. Both mistakes produced fastbreak baskets, part of an eight-point run by Austin Peay.
Kentucky had bright spots, too.
Davender scored 20 points and six steals.
Chapman added 18, including an electrifying drive that needed a behind-the- back dribble to set up a finger-roll shot in traffic.
As far as Sutton was concerned, there weren't enough of such moments.
"I was tempted to bring the guys back for practice (last night)," he said, "but I thought you guys would criticize us.
"We will practice tomorrow."