Date story published: Wednesday, December 21, 1988
Taking LeRon Ellis out of Kentucky's offense last night enabled Indiana to come to within two points of entering UK's record book.
The Hoosiers' collapsing man-to-man defense held Ellis to a season-low eight points. Without its leading scorer, UK floundered and lost 75-52.
The 23-point margin was the second-most lopsided for IU in the storied series. Only the 98-74 UK loss at Bloomington in 1974 was more one-sided. UK has had only one victory over Indiana by more than 23 points (91-56 in 1965).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Besides marking Indiana's first victory at Rupp Arena -- and the Hoosiers' first in Lexington since 1926 -- historical buffs noted that last night's rout was just the sixth double-figure loss for UK at Rupp Arena. Only the 76-41 defeat to Louisiana State two seasons ago was more one-sided.
Indiana coach Bob Knight was indifferent to the personal nature of his team's history-making.
Asked if he had a reaction to finally winning at Rupp after five previous losses, Knight said: "No. Why should I have?"
However, the Indiana coach needed no prodding to talk about the key to victory: IU's much-maligned defense. The same Hoosier team had given up an uncharacteristic 100 or more points three times earlier this season.
"We really had good team effort defensively," Knight said. "We made a couple mistakes, but not many. We played about as good as we're capable of defensively I enjoyed the way we played. Sometimes we win and I don't enjoy it. Tonight we paid attention to what we had set up."
Indiana's defensive game plan, Knight said, was focused on stopping Ellis inside by choking off his prime feeder: point guard Sean Sutton.
Both phases worked, much to the disappointment of the first sellout crowd at Rupp Arena this season. Ellis made only three of 11 shots -- one of six in the decisive first half -- while Sutton had a season-low two assists in 30 minutes.
The result was another historical footnote:UK dropped to 4-6, its worst start since 1926-27.
"Ellis has great feet and really spins and moves to the basket well," Knight said. "We didn't want to give him room to do those things so we were trying to keep him above us as much as possible."
Unlike the turnarounds shot against earlier opponents at Rupp this season, Ellis had his shot contested last night. If he didn't react quickly, Ellis was surrounded by defenders before he could make a move.
"I'd get the ball and it was rough," said Ellis, who entered the game averaging 21.4 points a game. "A lot of times, I'd find a man back in my lap and another two men on me."
Ellis was also no factor on the boards, where Indiana enjoyed a 38-33 edge. In 38 minutes, UK's 6-foot-10 center had two rebounds, one more than Johnathon Davis got in one minute of play.
"The deal with that was (IU center Todd) Jadlow is a lot stronger than I am," Ellis said. "He has a lot more body weight than I do. To get the board, he'll do just about anything. So I was trying to keep him off the board and concentrating on letting my teammates get the ball."
UK coach Eddie Sutton credited Indiana's physical play inside and Ellis' timid reaction to it for shutting down the biggest Cat.
"I don't think LeRon responded like he should, but he's still growing as a player," the Kentucky coach said. "I'd like to see him be a little more aggressive than he was."
Sean Sutton said, "They were stopping me from going to the right side. They were forcing me left. And when I could get away, it seemed all the passing lanes were closed. I'm better going to my right. It's a more natural movement passing that way. It was a good game plan."
As the game ended, Knight whispered a private word to the UK point guard. Sutton said that the Indiana coach offered encouragement in light of the boos the UK guard had heard previously at Rupp.
"I've not seen anyone this year do a better job feeding someone than Sutton," Knight said. "Sutton does a great job getting the ball inside. From 80 feet to 15 feet, he's right on the button. We wanted to keep pressure on him. Limiting Ellis' movement and pressuring Sutton's passing was the basis of our defensive plan.
With Ellis removed, the offensive load shifted to the Wildcats on the perimeter. Last night they did not respond.
But last week's hero, Richie Farmer, made only one of nine from the field. Derrick Miller hit two of eight.
No one seemed more open than Reggie Hanson. Indiana stayed several feet off Hanson, even when the UK forward was only 15 feet from the basket.
"When he hit the first shot, I started to come out on him," IU freshman Eric Anderson said. "But coach told me to stay back."
Hanson's jumper fueled a 10-4 UK run to start the game.
But the toll of not having Ellis' offense slowly took away UK's offense.
"We started out all right," Sutton said, "and we seemed in good shape as far as tempo goes. Then we let them jump away by taking two or three very marginal shots. All of a sudden, you're down 10 points."
UK had only one basket -- an acrobatic Ellis tip-in -- in the final 6:35. In that span, Indiana outscored UK 15-4 to take a 36-24 lead.
Indiana took that lead without much offense from its leading scorer, guard Jay Edwards.
Edwards, who entered the game averaging 18.2 points, made only three of 11 first-half shots. But he finished with 21 points, hitting five of seven second-half shots.
That offense allowed Indiana to stay comfortably ahead. UK got no closer than 12 in the second half, no closer than 15 in the final 6:35.
"They played a whale of a game and we played very poorly," Coach Sutton said. "I look at the stat sheet and see we shot 21 of 60 (35 percent). You've not going to beat very many people shooting like that."
Only Chris Mills showed much offensive life for UK. Posting up more than usual, Mills had 22 points. He made five of eight shots and had 11 points in the first half. His teammates hit five of 17.