Date story published: Thursday, February 23, 1989
A cynic might have said "the Fabulous Five" saw the mediocre 10 last night at Rupp Arena.
Those with a heart accepted Kentucky's 76-71 victory over Tennessee no matter the artistic value. Despite nearly squandering a 17-point second-half lead, UK snapped its historic six-game losing streak. Only two other teams in school history had lost six straight. Only one -- 1922-23 -- lost more in a row.
Before last night's game, members of UK's championship team of 1948-49, four of whom played for the 1947-48 national champs whose starters were known as the "The Fabulous Five," were honored at a downtown restaurant.
En mass, they walked to center court to complete the UK cheerleaders' K-E- N-T-U-C-K-Y letter-by-letter formation.
It was during their brief appearance, which drew an appreciative roar from the Rupp crowd, that UK's current team was, well, fabulous.
The Cats scored the second half's first 13 points, a run that expanded a 32-28 halftime lead to 45-28.
"That was the ballgame," Tennessee coach Don DeVoe said. "We put ourselves in a gigantic hole in the first five minutes of the second half by not being able to handle pressure."
UK coach Eddie Sutton also credited the defense, calling it the Cats' best sustained effort of the season.
UK forced four turnovers in the decisive span. Tennessee committed 21 in the game.
Several of UK's stars this night contributed to the run. Chris Mills, who came within an assist of his second "triple double" of the season, stole a pass and raced to a behind-the-head dunk. The shot was part of his 13-point, 13-rebound, nine-assist game and put UK ahead 40-28.
Reggie Hanson, who held Tennessee star Dyron Nix to 12 points, had four of the points, two on a nifty under-the-basket reverse layup. Nix, who had double-figure scoring in 35 of his last 36 games, did not reach double digits until he hit a three-pointer with 29 seconds left.
Derrick Miller opened and closed the 13-0 run with baskets. It was hit three-pointer with 16:06 left that gave Kentucky its largest lead: 45-28.
However, in the next seven minutes, UK got only one basket. At one point, LeRon Ellis, who led UK with 23 points, missed four straight free throws.
The Cats also had three of their 18 turnovers during that span.
Despite the giveaway, Tennessee could only close to within 49-38.
The Vols made their serious move in the final 7:13.
During that time, Tennessee hit seven three-pointers.
A trey by center Doug Roth cut UK's lead to 54-48 with 6:26 left.
Another by Greg Bell, who led Tennessee with 18, made it 56-50 at the 5:38 mark.
UK aided the comeback by missing free throws. The Cats made just 19 of 32 second-half free throws.
Three one-and-ones were missed in the final 6:17.
Tennessee closed to within 71-68 when Nix hit his three-pointers.
In the clutch, Hanson hit two free throws with 21 seconds left.
After Bell missed a three-pointer, Mills added two more with 16 seconds left and the Cats could breath easier.
UK improved to 12-16 overall and 7-9 in the Southeastern Conference.
Tennessee, which lost for the seventh time in its last 10 games, fell to 15-9 and 8-7.