Date story was published: Monday, January 26, 1987
David Robinson ruled the air yesterday with a near quadruple double: 14 rebounds, 10 blocks, eight dunks and a Rupp Arena record and personal high 45 points.
But Kentucky's domination of the earth-bound play allowed the Wildcats to beat Navy 80-69.
"It's bitterly frustrating to lose a game when David plays so well," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "That was probably the best game I've seen Dave play."
What was bitter for Navy was sweet for Kentucky.
Two telltale signs of UK's 'up' side this inconsistent season combined to foil Robinson's best efforts. The Wildcats, 11-5, were oppressive in their man-to-man defense, opportunistic in their outside shooting.
UK pulled off a defensive double double on Navy, 13-5. The Cats forced 19 turnovers and made 10 steals. Not so coincidentally, a steal and driving layup by Ed Davender gave Kentucky the lead for good at 6-4.
Later, when UK's largest second-half lead, 52-39, was sliced to three, freshman Derrick Miller's two three-point bombs beat back a Robinson-led charge.
Again, not so coincidentally, Miller's two shots were sandwiched around another Davender steal/layup.
"I love how quick we played," UK coach Eddie Sutton said. "I love quickness and I've been lucky to have coached so many quick teams. We were a lot quicker than Navy, which helped us a great deal."
UK's quickness also showed on offense. Unlike its Southeastern Conference survival tests, when milking the shot clock is the strategy, Kentucky was willing to get into a running game with Navy.
Rex Chapman, who scored a team-high 22 points despite a temperature of 102, gave the most striking example. When a first-half fast break seemed stopped, the flu-ridden freshman pulled up and hit a 15-footer before Navy's defense could get set.
"Coach Sutton told us Navy was a team we could use some early offense against," Davender said. "Navy didn't get back in transition defense real well. It was a big key in the game."
Kentucky needed a lot of man-to-man defense and transition offense to offset Robinson.
Navy's 7-foot-1 center was wonderful, to use one of Sutton's favorite descriptions. He dunked. He hit turnaround shots in the lane. He made 17 of 22 shots.
Robinson's 45 points equaled his career high and the Naval Academy record. He scored 45 against James Madison Jan. 10 to equal John Tolmie's 1967 effort against Rochester.
Robinson also shattered Freeman Williams' Rupp Arena record of 39 points. Williams scored 39 on Dec. 16, 1977, in that season's UKIT.
Robinson was also a force defensively. He blocked layup attempts. He blocked a three-point attempt. He grabbed 14 rebounds, which propelled Navy to a 39-26 edge on the boards.
"There are not enough superlatives to describe him," UK center Rob Lock said.
Asked if he was surprised by Robinson's dominance, Lock said: "I expected him to get every one of the points."
Robinson nearly monopolized Navy's early scoring. He scored 12 of Navy's first 14 points and 19 of the first 23 points. Ten of the points came on dunks, the last two when he snatched a loose ball from Cedric Jenkins and slammed it home.
But for all that, Navy trailed 27-23 with 6:36 remaining in the half.
Chapman's shooting, Davender's all-around play and Lock's refusal to be intimidated were key factors in an afternoon of many heroes.
Chapman scored 10 of his points in the first 13 minutes.
Lock had three of his shots blocked in the first half. However, twice Lock grabbed the loose ball and slipped it in before Robinson could strike again.
"I knew he was going to block some of my shots," Lock said, "so that didn't affect me."
Davender set the tone early. He picked the dribble of Navy's point guard, Doug Wojcik, and raced to a layup that put UK ahead 6-4. "I was leaning, leaning at it," Davender said. "Something in my mind said, 'Go for it.' "
The Cats never trailed again. Wojcik played as if on the brink of a turnover thereafter. He was saddled with five turnovers. He and backcourt mate Cliff Rees shot a combined 1-for-15.
"The first thing I noticed in watching the film was that Navy's guards aren't that quick compared to other guards we play," Davender said. "After a while, it looked like every time he (Wojcik) got past half-court he was looking to get rid of it. Not pass it to someone."
Wojcik's shooting was no relief. The senior guard went 1-for-8 from the field.
"When Wojcik is dogged like that, his shooting will suffer," Herrmann said. "They got so many easy baskets. We didn't want that to happen."
UK had seven baskets off the fast break or in transition.
Ahead 38-25 late in the first half, the Wildcats pushed the margin back to 13 soon after intermission.
Then Robinson struck again. He scored eight straight points to fuel a 12-2 run that cut a 52-39 Kentucky lead to 54-51. Robinson's roll capped a personal string of 14 straight Navy points.
But a curious offensive foul call slowed Robinson down. He was called for a charge as he turned to face the basket. "From my angle, I felt (the defender) was not in good position," Robinson said. "They called an offensive foul. There wasn't much I could do."
Miller subdued Robinson at the other end. Robinson played on the wing in Navy's zone for much of the game. The UK freshman hit a three-pointer over Robinson to put UK ahead 57-51 with 10:02 left.
After Davender knifed into a passing lane, made a steal and scored, Miller hit another three-pointer. UK made eight of 20 three-point attempts. Navy missed all eight of its three-point shots.
"They don't even look where they're standing," Robinson said of UK's perimeter players. "He (Miller) was two or three feet outside the line. I'm not used to seeing shooters that far out. They were jacking it up and I was a little surprised they shot from that far out. I hesitated."
Kentucky could breathe easier when Robinson slammed into Irv Thomas and was called for another charge with 8:52 left. It was Robinson's fourth foul and his third charge of the second half.
"Rob and the other guys weren't playing as physical as they could," Thomas said. "I tried to bump him, keep him off balance."
Robinson blocked Miller's next three-point attempt.
But UK retrieved the ball and Richard Madison fed Lock for a dunk that made it 64-53 with 8:25 left.
With UK's recent hot streak from the foul line continuing (14 of 18), even a player as good as Robinson could do little to deny a Wildcat victory.
"I wish I could figure out a way to trade a couple players for Robinson," Sutton said. "If we had his inside game to go with our perimeter people, we'd be great."
Yesterday, UK was good enough to beat Robinson.