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WILDCATS FINALLY GET A LAUGHER, 78-60

Date story published: Sunday, December 11, 1988

The referees didn't show. And the real Richie Farmer did.

In other words, a near-perfect day dawned on a Kentucky basketball program desperately in need of a little sunshine.

Just like the Wildcat teams of yesteryear, UK thrashed a helpless victim. Western Carolina fell 78-60 and was happy to stay that close.

"Losing by 18 is a credit to our program and to our kids," first-year Western Carolina coach Dave Possinger said. "Our kids may be non-Division I talent-wise, but they're not non-Division I in heart."

UK fans had to wonder if the Cats were up to snuff in either talent or heart after Wednesday's lackluster 85-82 upset loss to lightly regarded Northwestern State.

Yesterday, the Cats made amends with a never-seriously-challenged victory that raised their record to 3-4.

The referees? The assigned crew failed to show. Jack Wise, who observes referees at Rupp Arena, speculated that the crew had not been alerted of the change of tip-off time (from 7:30 p.m. to 1:30).

Emergency calls were made an hour before tip-off to three Lexington-based Southeastern Conference referees. Jake Bell, the Henry Clay High football coach; Dave Bair, an assistant coach at Henry Clay; and Ken Cox, the Tates Creek High principal, substituted.

Both sides applauded their efforts, which concluded with a dash out the door to make night-game commitments.

UK's performance also graded high.

"It was a game Kentucky had to win," Possinger said, "and they had to win the way they won the game, too. The way they played they got their crowd excited. They got the crowd back into Kentucky basketball."

Farmer, already a legend in his native Clay County, drew the loudest cheers from a happy Rupp Arena crowd generously listed at 18,253.

His three three-point bombs propelled UK toward a 31-11 lead in the first 11 minutes. Western, a team picked to finish last in the Southern Conference, got no closer than 16 thereafter.

"The coach (Eddie Sutton) is putting a lot more confidence in me, but I don't think my confidence ever dropped," said Farmer, who before yesterday had played only 37 minutes in UK's first five games. "I haven't been in the games early. When the coaches put me in early, they're telling me they had confidence in me."

Farmer had 15 points to join LeRon Ellis (19 points) as the Cats' two double-figure scorers. Farmer had scored but 12 points before yesterday.

"It's feeling really good," the freshman guard said of his outside shooting. "I think that's coming from learning the offense better and being more comfortable in myself and being on the floor -- the geography of the floor.

"I never did feel bad. But it feels good now."

By the time Farmer entered the game (at the 14:38 mark) as a substitute for Derrick Miller, UK already had the game under control with a 16-4 lead. The Cats were pounding the boards, heading toward a 30-21 rebounding edge that Sutton said should have been greater.

Ellis, at 6-foot-10 five inches taller than any of Western's front-liners, dominated inside.

"We did what we didn't accomplish the other day," Sutton said. "We took them out of the game early when we had the opportunity."

Possinger's greatest fear -- an early deficit for his unsure team -- arrived. Worse, Western's leading scorer, forward Bennie Goettie, had departed with three fouls by the 15:23 mark.

"Our feeling was if we could stay in the game for the first five minutes and be within striking distance, we could have a shot at being competitive," Possinger said. "Obviously, that was not the case. Obviously, the game was decided in the first five minutes."

UK's first five baskets -- and six of the first seven -- came off inside shots. By then, UK led 16-4.

"In the first 10 minutes, our defense was outstanding," Sutton said.

Possinger conceded his team might have had early jitters.

"We got out of our patterns," he said. "We were a little in awe of it all."

With Western reeling, Farmer applied the knockout blow.

His three-pointer from the top of the key made it 19-4. Another three- pointer, this time from the right side, extended the lead to 22-6.

After a Mike Scott tip-in gave UK its first 20-point lead, 28-8 at the 9:50 mark, Farmer unloaded his third three-pointer to make it 31-11.

"Richie played very well today," Sutton said. "He shot extremely well. I've never questioned his ability to score. He can score. He must become a better defensive player. But he's not the only one. We have other players not playing as well as I'd like."

After its early suffocating intensity, UK's defense slackened, Sutton said. Goettie re-entered the game with 11:28 left simply to keep UK's lead from growing to farcical proportions, Possinger said, and he excelled. Goettie, a low-post machine, scored 18 second-half points and finished with a game-high 26.

"Our pivot defense again was not good," Sutton said. "We allowed them to handle the ball too easily and get it inside."

But for all of Goettie's scoring, Western fell behind by as much as 27 twice in the second half. The Catamounts scored 10 straight points at the finish to make the final score deceptively close.

"They were bigger, quicker and stronger than us," Possinger said. "When that's the case, you'll win the game. If you have more athletes, you'll win the basketball game."

Enjoy it while you can, said Sutton, who gave the Cats today off. It will be the team's first off day since practice began Oct. 15.

"I don't think we'll have very many big-margin games this year," Sutton said. "I was just pleased we played better today. I thought our effort was better."

The officials who didn't show yesterday were Wally Tanner of Jacksonville, Fla., Herman Ramsey of Rockford, Tenn., and Kerry Sitton of Henderson, Texas.

The referees who did show were busy last night, too. Bell and Bair were to call Tennessee State at East Tennessee State and Cox was to call Morehead State's game against Centre College in Morehead.

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