Date story was published: Monday, March 2, 1987
Rex Chapman's vivid imagination was the incubator that hatched the winning shot Saturday against Mississippi.
Twenty-four hours later, Kentucky showcased its coldly calculating side. Precision in the climactic heat of battle allowed UK to edge Oklahoma 75-74 yesterday at Rupp Arena and probably secure an NCAA Tournament bid.
"I have to believe the University of Kentucky is on that priority list as an at-large team," Coach Eddie Sutton said, "even if we don't win in Atlanta (in this week's Southeastern Conference Tournament)."
Execution of an inbounds play with nine seconds left freed Richard Madison under the basket for the winning shot. So open was Madison, he had what seemed an eternity of milliseconds to consider the 74-73 deficit he erased.
"I thought about it a lot before I shot it," Madison said of the game- winner with eight seconds left. "I thought, 'God, please help me.' I thought it would be tougher getting the ball in. I guess they were looking for another play."
What freed Madison -- and improved Kentucky's record to 18-9 -- was a decoy cut by Ed Davender, a ball-fake by Rex Chapman, a faked look for a lob by Madison, a pick by Cedric Jenkins and Sutton's nimble coaching.
When UK first broke its huddle after a timeout with nine seconds left, the Cats had anticipated an Oklahoma zone defense. When the Sooners came out in man-to-man and then called a timeout of their own, Sutton ordered two plays: one, nicknamed "Texas," for use against a zone; and for a man-to-man, there was "No. 4," a play the Cat staff first saw used by Mississippi State against Kentucky last season.
When Oklahoma remained in a man, "No. 4" became the call.
"It was run just like we drew it up on the clipboard," Sutton said.
Chapman inbounded the ball rather than attempt to duplicate Saturday's magic. The reason was, he was the focus of an Oklahoma "diamond-and-one" defense that limited Chapman to 20 hard-earned points. "They were dogging him all afternoon," UK assistant James Dickey said. "He was tired and we figured they wouldn't give him an uncontested shot."
Chapman first faked a pass to Davender on the right side, while Madison started down the right side of the lane. "It's really a good play because they were thinking we were looking for a lob (to Madison)," Chapman said. "Coach said to be patient because we had a timeout left. I just had to wait for the play to develop and he was wide open."
Instead, Madison cut across the lane to the left of the basket. Jenkins stepped from the left and screened Madison's man, Harvey Grant.
"I didn't see the pick," Grant said. "I could have tried to reach out and foul him, but I didn't want to risk a three-point play."
After Madison's basket, UK had to survive one final Oklahoma dash downcourt to win the regular-season finale. The Sooners' point guard, Ricky Grace, who three times earlier had driven the court in transition for layups, sped toward the basket after Madison's shot.
On his hip was Davender.
"I think they wanted Grace to penetrate and pitch it to (guard Tim) McCalister," Davender said. "Rex did a good job overplaying McCalister, so there was nothing for him to do but take it to the hole. I tried to make him take an off-balance shot, which he did. If he hit that one, they deserved to win."
Grace's fade-away shot off the glass from about 12 feet was short, but Oklahoma still felt it deserved a victory. At the buzzer -- or shortly thereafter -- teammate David Johnson grabbed the rebound. The bulky Sooner center flipped it back up and the shot banked in.
Bedlam erupted as each side broke into celebration: Oklahoma thinking Johnson's shot was good; Kentucky thinking it wasn't. The ruling, from Big Eight official Ron Spitler, was no basket.
Television replays seemed to support Spitler. Johnson still had the ball in his hand with 0:00 on the game clock.
"That ain't the horn, is it?" a testy Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs asked reporters afterward. "I thought it should have been good, but keep in mind I haven't looked at a replay."
Johnson claimed he got the shot off before the final horn, the signal that officially ends a game. "I heard the horn when I hit the floor (after taking the shot)," Johnson said. "The game's not over until the horn sounds. I thought we had won the game."
Speaking outside the UK locker room, Madison said the Sooner center had a different explanation after the game as the teams entered the tunnel under the Rupp stands. Told Johnson's description to reporters, Madison said: "Nah, he came in here laughing about it after the game."
Spitler's no-basket ruling was the second critical call he made in the final seconds. With 15 seconds left, the Big Eight official ruled that Madison was fouled in a scramble for a loose ball.
The play came after Grant, whose 20 points and 12 rebounds led Oklahoma, had put the Sooners ahead 74-72 with two free throws at the 0:46 mark.
Davender missed a baseline jumper at the other end. As Madison and Grace raced for the loose-ball rebound, Madison went sprawling to the floor with the ball. Spitler called Grace for a shove rather than Madison for walking.
"I'd give him (Madison) an Emmy for the acting job he did on that one," Grace said. "We haven't got any breaks lately."
The loss was Oklahoma's third straight, all by two or fewer points. The Sooners, ranked 12th at the beginning of last week, fell to 21-8.
"He should watch that play close up," Madison said of Grace. "I got banged, man."
Madison made the first free throw of the one-and-one to cut the lead to 74-73. He missed the second, but James Blackmon kept the rebound alive with a hustling move across the lane.
A wild scramble left Jenkins flat on his back clutching the ball. "I just dove for it," Jenkins said. "Everybody wanted that one."
Jenkins was immediately tied up. The alternate possession arrow pointed UK's way.
It was then -- with nine seconds left -- that UK and Oklahoma traded timeouts.
Madison's uncontested layup was the result.