Date story was published: Sunday, January 17, 1988
In seven minutes yesterday Kentucky parted a season-long buildup of clouds.
Gone was a less-than-full defensive effort.
Gone was the indiscriminate shooting on offense.
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Gone was Tennessee, behind 19-4 at that point and en route to an 83-65 thumping at the hands of suddenly intense UK.
Long after the magnificent seven minutes, as the teams began leaving the Rupp Arena floor, Tennessee's point guard, Clarence Swearengen, had just one question for boyhood friend Richard Madison of UK.
"What did you guys do in practice?" the Memphis native in orange asked the Memphis native in blue.
A diplomatic Madison spared his pal's feelings. "We wanted to spank you guys," he told Swearengen.
Later, he revealed UK's true passion yesterday. "We just wanted to kick their a--," Madison said.
Kicked they were.
In those first seven minutes, UK took a 19-4 lead. And, maybe more importantly, discarded the puzzling inefficiency of recent games.
On offense, the Cats played as if Coach Eddie Sutton's pleas for patience had not fallen on deaf ears after all. Good shot selection ruled. The 16 three-pointers in UK's 63-55 victory at Alabama Wednesday were replaced by just two in an up-tempo game yesterday more favorable to long-distance launches.
Two of UK's front-line players -- Rob Lock (12) and Winston Bennett (10) -- scored in double figures. A third, first-time starter Madison, added nine in a balanced attack.
Rex Chapman, singled out for one of Sutton's do-better talks, took both three-pointers. The first, which built UK's lead to 13-4, could have come off a Sutton blueprint. Chapman threw a pass inside to center Lock. Stymied, Lock fanned the ball back to Chapman. Swish.
Although he bombed less, Chapman's scoring average did not suffer. He finished with a team-high 23 points, his best point total since getting 26 at Georgia.
"Rex did a great job, probably the best this year, at passing up shots he'd take before," Lock said. "We played well as a team today. We pretty much overpowered them."
The defense was smothering. Bennett set the tone 10 seconds into the game. He shot into the passing lane and deflected the Vols' first pass out of bounds.
What followed included a Doug Roth pass that rolled nearly the length of the court. To no one. Bennett intercepted an inbounds pass inches after it had been thrown. A rattled Travis Henry, Swearengen's backup, directed a bullet pass at Elvin Brown's feet.
When Tennessee called time at the 13:30 mark to catch its breath, the Vols had more turnovers (eight) than field-goal attempts (seven). UK had a 17-4 lead, soon to be 19-4. Then 26-8, the largest margin of the half.
UK, now 12-1 overall and 5-1 in the Southeastern Conference, built its lead to as much as 24 points twice in the second half. The Vols got no closer than 14, and then only briefly, when UK applied the inevitable second-half cruise control.
The damage, Tennessee coach Don DeVoe said, had already been done.
"That was the ball game," DeVoe said of the opening seven minutes. "It was apparent from the beginning Kentucky was doing the things they have to do to be a No. 1 team: that is great defense and attack the basket."
No. 1 team? After losing to Auburn 53-52 last weekend, UK had fallen to No. 5. A struggle past Alabama the following Wednesday made Sutton wonder if there was a safety net below.
"I'm pleased," Sutton said. "Not that I don't think we can get better. But at least we looked like the basketball team I believe we can become. I know I liked this game a lot more than the ones I've been seeing. We went out and played like you're supposed to play."
Dyron Nix, Tennessee's star and the SEC's leading scorer (21.1 ppg) and rebounder (10.2 rpg), did all he could. When he could get the ball.
Nix scored 10 of UT's first 12 points and finished with 28. The 6-foot-7 forward also had 12 rebounds.
But as Nix noted, "Most of my points came on individual effort. (UK's) defense was helping all over. There was nothing much we could do as far as running an offense. They forced us into turnover after turnover at the beginning of the ball game. In that situation, a young team will tighten up."
UK's man-to-man pressure had an adverse effect on Tennessee's defense, too, DeVoe said. The Vols' 117 steals entering the game led the SEC. UT had but one steal in the first half and four overall.
"I don't think we played at all well (defensively)," DeVoe said. "In fact, it stunk early in the game. They were certainly after us and we certainly didn't get after them."
"Basically," Nix added, "we let them do what they wanted."
UK highlights included:
A pair of fast breaks orchestrated by Madison and Ed Davender. On each, the UK teammates exchanged touch passes, with Davender netting two layups. Davender finished with 18 points and just one turnover in 31 minutes.
The re-emergence of LeRon Ellis. The freshman center had an adventurous 21 minutes, his longest stint of the season. At one point, he dived on the floor to retrieve his own fumble and fed the loose ball to Davender. Ellis later dived to the floor to gather a ball Nix let bounce off his leg. That save sparked one of the Davender-Madison fast-break clinics.
Ellis also was undercut attempting to catch a lob pass for a dunk. He completed the play, taking Sean Sutton's lob for an alley-oop layup and UK's final basket.
"Even though he made mistakes, we wanted to play him 20 minutes before," Sutton said of Ellis. "His (sprained left) ankle prevented it. He's still not in condition. You could see him huffing and puffing out there. We'd like very much for Lock and LeRon to play that center spot (a combined 19 points and 13 rebounds yesterday).
A birthday present for Madison, who turned 23 yesterday. Tennessee's Greg Bell lost control of a behind-the-back dribble. The ball popped to Madison, who ran but 15 feet to a thunderous left-handed dunk.
After recent struggles, it seemed to come easily yesterday.
"Because we were tired of getting chewed out," Chapman said.
And didn't want any more lectures, Davender added.
"This game was a 1 o'clock (start)," Davender said. "If we hadn't played well, we might have been practicing afterward."