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INCONSISTENT CATS ESCAPE STATE 57-49

Date story was published: Tuesday, January 13, 1987

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- It wasn't the consistency Eddie Sutton was looking for, but it was good enough.

Despite periods of dominance, Kentucky needed six free throws in the final 38 seconds to hold off lowly Mississippi State 57-49 here last night.

The victory, as uneven as it was, snapped UK's two-game losing streak and allowed the Wildcats to improve to 8-4 overall and 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference.

State, which was within four at the 30-second mark, lost its eighth straight to fall to 4-9 and 0-4.

Inconsistency ruled throughout.

The Wildcats led 26-22 at intermission, but could have been ahead by 10 or more. Or behind by an equal margin against the SEC's last-place team.

The Humphrey Coliseum shot clocks were equally up and down. Before the game's start, the clock's malfunctioned. One showed :05 seconds. The other :85.

With a plan calling for the public address announcer to call out the 20- and 10-second marks, the game began.

UK began well. Rex Chapman, who led UK with 16 points, nailed a three- pointer for the first basket at 17:42. He accounted for UK's first seven points, the final two coming off a steal and driving dunk.

That steal was one of three that led to dunks or layups for UK in the half. Ed Davender and James Blackmon had the other two.

When Derrick Miller hit a three-pointer at 13:06, UK led 12-4 and seemed ready to cruise to victory. Mississippi State, which entered the game hitting 43.8 percent of its shots, made just one of its first four. The Bulldogs had only one basket in the first 6 1/2 minutes.

With all that going for them, the Wildcats suddenly began sailing toward oblivion.

After Miller's three-pointer, UK didn't score again for more than four minutes.

The dry spell began with three straight turnovers, the last two unforced. It concluded with three straight missed shots off of a confused offense.

State reeled off 10 straight points, the last two on Greg Lockhart's short jumper that pushed the Bulldogs ahead 14-12 with 9:05 left.

It could have been worse. State missed two layups during the run on single- shot possessions.

A short baseline jumper by Rob Lock ended UK's scoreless string and sparked another UK charge.

Lock's slam off a Davender drive concluded a string of eight straight Kentucky points. That rush pushed the Cats ahead 22-16.

Then the fortunes turned once more.

A familiar UK problem, free throws, was the cause. Davender missed the front end of a one-and-one and Irv Thomas missed two free throws to stall the Cat charge.

Meanwhile, State made six straight free throws down the stretch to stay close.

Fouls plagued UK. Thomas left the floor with four fouls. Lock had three.

Kentucky could not break away as the second half began. After a Hubert Henderson free throw, center Anthony Blakley beat a fronting Lock for a layup that cut UK's halftime lead to 26-22.

UK lost Thomas at the 17:01 mark. Thomas entered the game with 19:23 remaining. He was whistled for his fifth foul at 17:01 when he elbowed a closely guarding MSU player.

State went ahead 32-30 with 13:10 left when Greg Lockhart hit a 14-footer in the lane.

Thanks to its freshmen and a heady play by Davender, Kentucky answered in a big way.

Miller sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a State basket to give Kentucky a 36-34 lead.

After Blakley was called for a push off a lob, Chapman posted up and tipped in his own miss to push UK ahead by four.

Blakley's push-off began a rash of State turnovers that help propel Kentucky to victory.

State committed four turnovers in the next six minutes and went scoreless in the span.

UK reeled off 12 straight points. Miller's second three-pointer began the run. A three-pointer from the right corner by Blackmon concluded it, giving Kentucky a 45-34 lead.

Again, the Wildcats couldn't put State away. Two missed shots and two turnovers stalled Kentucky.

State put together six straight points to close to within 45-40 with 4:51 remaining. When Davender was called for holding the ball five seconds, Kentucky called time with 4:27 left.

The Bulldogs closed to 45-42 when freshman guard Reginald Boykin rebounded a miss and laid it in with 4:05 to go. Then Blackmon drilled a three-pointer, ending a scoreless spell of more than three minutes.

After Boykin hit a jumper, Chapman drilled a three-pointer to give Kentucky a 51-44 edge with 2:26 to go.

Still, State wouldn't quit.

Blakley came off the floor in a wild rebounding scramble to score while being fouled by Madison. His free throw made it 51-47 with 1:51 left.

The Bulldogs had two fouls to waste before being able to send Kentucky to the line. UK got a break when Lock seemed to push off to get room to pass. No foul was called.

Tracy Taylor fouled with 1:16 left. Taylor fouled Chapman with 52 seconds. The next foul sent Blackmon to the line with 43 seconds remaining. Blackmon, a 43-percent free-throw shooter, missed, but Henderson couldn't control the rebound. He fumbled it and had to save it blindly. Madison grabbed the ball and shot. He was fouled.

Madison made both free throws to give Kentucky a 53-47 lead with 38 seconds left.

The Cats got another huge break after Boykin made two free throws. Lockhart stole Chapman's inbounds pass in the corner. Because he was leaning out of bounds, Lockhart had to flip it toward midcourt. It went out of bounds untouched.

Four straight free throws -- two each by Chapman and Davender -- saved the game.

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