Date story published: Sunday, December 18, 1988
After Friday night's loss to Bowling Green, Kentucky's players and coaches closed the locker room door and reportedly screamed at one another.
UK came out declaring a new beginning and got the fresh start off with a 91-78 victory over Marshall last night.
This time, the opponents screamed.
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"If I was president, I'd hire those three s--- of b------ to guard me," Marshall coach Rick Huckabay said of the referees. "They took so much away from us they completely intimidated us."
Huckabay, his face flushed with anger and his eyes red and bulging, conceded the best team won. On the brink of a first-ever two-defeat UKIT, Kentucky outscored Marshall 18-3 late to win third place going away.
Huckabay objected to what he viewed as the help UK received from the officials.
"Their attitude toward Mickey Mouse Marshall really irritated the hell out of me," Huckabay said, "and I don't mind telling you. I know you're saying sour grapes. That's not the case. We take it with the best."
Two calls infuriated the Marshall coach. With UK clinging to an 82-78 lead in the final two minutes, the Herd's top gun, guard John Taft, was bumped by Sean Sutton as he drove. No call. Then Taft, who led Marshall with 29 points, drove for a shot in the lane. UK's two forces this night, LeRon Ellis and Chris Mills, converged. Huckabay and Taft, a well-muscled 6-foot-1 guard, saw two more fouls.
"I just don't understand it," Taft said. "Somebody ought to do something about the officials."
After Mills, who had 17 points and 20 rebounds, hit a hanging flip in the lane and free throw to make it 85-78, Marshall's other high-scoring scorer was called for charging on a three-point shot attempt. Andy Paul Williamson fell into Richie Farmer after the shot.
Farmer's two free throws were part of UK's 9-for-12 accuracy in the final 2:40 that sealed the victory.
Asked about the call, Williamson said: "Did you see a charge on me? You tell me."
Farmer said Williamson lunged forward after the shot. But Huckabay didn't see a charge.
"A charge on a jump shot is a little more than I could handle," the Marshall coach said."
Huckabay said he did not believe the referees were influenced by Kentucky's desperate situation. "It was a team victory and a victory we badly needed," UK coach Eddie Sutton said. "If we came out of here with a loss, it would have been very difficult to get the ballclub prepared for Indiana (Tuesday at Rupp).
UK improved its record to 4-5.
"They were looking at Marshall," said Huckabay, a former Dale Brown assistant at LSU. "They (Marshall) aren't supposed to be any good. Because I know the SEC, I know they think if you're not in it, you're against it."
Mostly because of Taft's scoring, Marshall led 66-60 when UK called time with 11:03 left. The scene looked familiar. Like the losses to Northwestern State and Bowling Green, Kentucky was being outquicked and out-thought.
"I'm sure a lot of fans were thinking, 'Uh oh, this is a repeat of Northwestern State," Sutton said. "But we held our poise and made the plays we had to make.
"The main thing I told them was 'We're not playing to keep from losing,' " Sutton said of his timeout oratory. " 'We're playing to win.' If they didn't feel that in their heart, I wanted to know right then because I was going to find someone who believed."
UK outscored Marshall 18-3 in the next six minutes to take command 78-69. LeRon Ellis, who bore little resemblance to the stiff who wore his uniform Friday, led UK with 33 points. Chris Mills added 17 points and 20 rebounds against undersized Marshall.
Marshall, 2-3, scored only two baskets after the timeout.
"We live and die by the three-pointer," Huckabay said. "They didn't go in and we had to foul and Kentucky made the free throws. They played much better late in the game than they did against Bowling Green. Coach Sutton did a nice job re-preparing them for late-game situations. They took care of the ball. That was the difference."
UK players declared a new start after the late-night meeting Friday.
"We were really honest with each other," Sean Sutton said.
Ellis scored UK's first 12 points. He surpassed the nine points he indifferently scored in Friday's game against Bowling Green less than five minutes into the game. His rebound basket gave Ellis 10 points at the 15:40 mark. Ellis finished the half with 19.
It was obvious early that Ellis would be involved. UK's first play was a Sean Sutton lob toward a double-covered Ellis.
With 18:56 left, Ellis took a charge and drew a cheer.
"We're starting fresh," Ellis said. "I know everyone is aware we're 3-5 or 4-5 or whatever.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're 1-0."
Manuel not on bench
Eric Manuel was not on the bench, fueling speculation that he might be transferring to another school.
Not true, Sutton said.
"To my knowledge, Eric Manuel will be back in school the second semester," the UK coach said. "He wasn't here. He had finished his tests and he departed to be with his mother and family for Christmas."