Date story was published: Sunday, December 14, 1986
Yes, Lamar, there is a zone defense in Eddie Sutton's playbook.
Locked in a fourth straight struggle this young season, Sutton ordered his short-handed Wildcats into a zone midway through the second half last night and Kentucky went on to claim a 71-56 victory.
UK was clinging to a 46-45 lead with 11 minutes remaining when Sutton, that ever-devoted disciple of the man-to-man, went into a zone. UK outscored the surprised Cardinals 25-11 thereafter to make its third victory in four games a breeze.
"We didn't prepare for a zone very much this week," Lamar coach Tom Abatemarco admitted, "and I thought the changing point in the game was when Coach Sutton went to the zone. Our kids couldn't penetrate and it just snowballed. The whole game went south."
To illustrate Lamar's confusion, Abatemarco said UK played a matchup zone.
However, several Wildcats claimed it was a 2-1-2 zone.
Whichever, the effect was easy to detect.
What was for 29 minutes a struggle of ebbs and flows became a tidal wave of Kentucky highlights.
With three regulars sitting on the bench in street clothes (Winston Bennett, Cedric Jenkins and Paul Andrews) and another on suspension (Todd Ziegler), UK could not sustain much of an attack.
Buoyed by the baseline-to-baseline hustle and determination of surprise starter Rob Lock, the Cats bolted to a 31-22 first-half lead. Then the Cats went cold, especially from the foul line, and had the lead reduced to 33-31 by halftime.
A second-half replay seemed to be unfolding as Kentucky jumped ahead 40-33 only to have Lamar creep to within one at 46-45.
But UK's short-handed predicament pried Sutton from his beloved man-to-man. The Cats simply did not have enough players available to play his pressure tactics for 40 minutes.
"We played in spurts again," Sutton said, "but we're happy to win. There's something to be said for that. Just ask that school up the road."
Of course, he meant Louisville, the defending national champion and loser to DePaul yesterday, its fourth loss in seven games.
Lock, in his first start this season, scored 12 points and helped the Cats contend with Lamar's leading scorer, center James Gulley.
Gulley, whose 24 points led all scorers, was in the middle of every Lamar comeback.
However, Lock posted up for a basket over the tiring Gulley to start the decisive final surge.
The 6-foot-11 Californian, a target of boos from the Rupp Arena student sections last week, was cheered last night. Lock scored six of his points in the final 11 minutes.
"Coach told us he was a pretty good player," Gulley said of Lock. "You can't underestimate him."
Sutton pulled Lock with 17 seconds remaining, giving the students a chance to atone for last week's treatment. They and most of the Rupp crowd of 23,123 cheered as Lock trotted off. As he left, Lock waved to the students.
"It was pretty emotional there at the end," he said. "This game gave me a real good feeling. I probably deserved what I got (the boos), so, of course, I felt a little apprehensive."
Lock wasn't the only hero in a stretch run that may end up on a highlight reel.
Ed Davender scored 11 of his team-high 16 points in the 25-11 run. He also took advantage of Sutton's decision to force Lamar into a man-to-man down the stretch and dissected the Cardinals with passes that netted layups for teammates James Blackmon, Rex Chapman and Lock.
A fast-break collaboration between Chapman and Blackmon highlighted UK's 7-0 run that pushed the Cats ahead 40-33.
Chapman came down on the break and underhanded a lob for Blackmon to bank home.
The shot followed a Chapman three-pointer.
Gulley scored six points in two minutes to fuel a Lamar rally.
The Cardinals crept to within one, 46-45, with 11:41 left and had a chance to go ahead when Derrick Miller's perimeter shot was blocked.
But Gulley missed and UK took control.
Kentucky got a much-needed boost from the much-maligned Lock in the first half. But that bonus, along with a hustling defense and Miller's shooting, couldn't produce more than a 33-31 halftime lead.
Gulley, Lamar's massive (6-foot-8, 253 pounds) center, was chiefly responsible.
Gulley burned Kentucky for 14 first-half points.
However, thanks to Lock, Gulley by no means wheeled and dealed inside. Gulley, whose nimbleness and soft-shooting touch belie his bulk, had to grab offensive rebounds to score eight of his points.
Lock, who started in place of Richard Madison, deflected three feeds into the low post intended for Gulley. Lock intercepted two more.
Lock, who was booed three times in UK's last Rupp Arena appearance Dec. 2 against Texas Tech, caused a thunderous standing ovation when he took a fast- break pass from Blackmon and slammed it home. Lock's steal of a feed for Gulley started the break and the shot tied the score at 5-5.
Later, Lock had another fast-break slam, this time on a pass from Madison, to push UK ahead 24-20.
A moment later, UK scored seven straight points to build its largest lead, 31-22.
Miller, who had 12 first-half points, started the run with a baseline flip shot. The freshman was fouled on the play and pranced from the contact pumping both fists into the air.
Miller, however, missed the free throw, part of UK's 1-for-5 performance from the line in the half.
Even though Miller's three-pointer put UK ahead 31-22 with 4:06 remaining, the margin could have been more.
Free-throw shooting, which has been a problem this season, was one of the culprits. Davender and Lock missed the front end of one-and-ones in the final 3:01.
The Wildcats, who entered the game hitting only 58.3 percent of their free throws, made six of 12 for the game.
The first half also saw Sutton hit with a technical foul, his second in four games this season.
Sutton charged out of the coaching box when it was ruled that Madison had been fouled before going up for a basket after a rebound.
The technical came with 14:45 remaining in the half. Lamar's DeWayne Brown made one of the two technical free throws.