Date story published: Friday, January 13, 1989
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sean Sutton answered jeering fans by scoring a career- high 11 points, and Kentucky responded to those who doubt its status as a Southeastern Conference contender last night.
Derrick Miller, who was scoreless in his career against Florida, added one of his unconscious shooting sprees (11 of 14) and 30 points as Kentucky breezed to a 69-56 victory over Florida.
The Cats, 8-7, improved to 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Only Tennessee (4-0) is ahead of UK.
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"It's pretty easy to keep up with it when you haven't scored," said Miller, who hit 11 straight shots in one stretch. "Coach (Eddie) Sutton keeps telling us we can win the conference. We're starting to believe him."
Stymied by UK's 2-1-2 zone defense, Florida made only 16 of its first 44 shots. The Gators fell to 7-8 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Florida's top two scorers, Dwayne Schintzius and Livingston Chatman, made only eight of their first 24 shots.
The game turned in the last 3:52 of the first half. Florida made five of its 11 first-half turnovers in that stretch, enabling Kentucky to take a 34-26 halftime lead.
UK scored the half's final nine points to establish the lead.
"It was very important to get ahead," Eddie Sutton said. "Our team carried out the game plan."
The Cats hoped to take Florida's rabid fans out of the game early.
Then establish a lead by choking off Florida's front line with a zone defense.
Once ahead, UK wanted to milk the shot clock, then hit enough shots to frustrate Florida.
When the game turned late in the first half, Florida's problem was getting the ball inside. Four times in the final two minutes, Gator passes into the low post were tipped or fumbled away.
"We just knew they were going to throw it inside," UK center LeRon Ellis said. "Their outside attack's not very good. The coaches told us they'd jam it inside all night. So we knew it was coming inside."
Florida was guilty of 11 first-half turnovers and 19 for the game.
"We didn't attack the zone well at all," Florida coach Norm Sloan said. "I've never seen so many times when the ball hit a receiver in the hands and he didn't catch it. I'm just disappointed we didn't execute."
Florida enjoyed the half's first-momentum swing.
Dwayne Davis blocked a Reggie Hanson jumper, knocking Hanson to the floor, and streaked to a double-pump slam.
That flashy dunk put Florida up 9-7 and prompted a UK timeout with 13:58 left.
But it was the only basket by Davis, who entered the game averaing 14.1 points.
"I don't think it was Kentucky," Schintzius said. "I think Livingston and 'Double D' eliminated themselves."
Sean Sutton, who was booed or jeered almost every time he touched the ball, scored seven of UK's first 13 points to keep the Cats in the game early.
Sutton hit a three-pointer -- only his third of the season -- to give UK a 5-3 lead. The public address announcer must have been surprised. He first said the basket was by Eddie Sutton.
The younger Sutton stole a pass and drove to a layup that gave UK an 11-10 lead.
After Florida took the first of two five-point leads (16-11), Sutton floated a baseline shot about 15 feet in the air over Davis with 10:27 left.
The seven first-half points put Sutton on target to break his career high. He scored nine points against Alaska-Anchorage last season and Western Carolina earlier this season.
"I heard it a little bit," Sutton said of the fans. "That goes back to (Henry Clay) high school. It's just part of basketball. I really enjoy it."
As the second half began, Miller showed signs of going on one of his shooting sprees.
Miller hit his first three shots -- including two three-pointers -- to propel Kentucky to a 42-29 lead.
But an intentional foul by Sean Sutton gave Florida hope.
Sutton grabbed Clifford Lett as the Florida guard sped for a layup. Sutton clearly grabbed Lett five feet from the basket, but after he let go, Lett banked in a shot.
Referee Mike Tanko allowed the basket, beginning what could have been a seven-point swing.
Lett missed the two intentional free throws, however, and then Brian Hogan missed a three-pointer.
Meanwhile, Miller continued hitting. Three more jumpers made Miller 6-for- 6 for the half. The shots were part of a 10-for-10 run by Miller that lifted UK to a 49-33 lead.
"When it comes to perimeter shooting, there's no one in the league that's any better," Eddie Sutton said.
Meanwhile, Florida could not hit or hold onto the ball. The Gators were 15 of 38 from the field with nine minutes left (39 percent) and had made 15 turnovers.
By then, UK was in cruise control. With Ellis stationed at the top of the key as a pressure release, the Cats milked 30 seconds off the shot clock on each possession. Then UK got a good shot.
One scare had to be averted.
After two Schintzius free throws cut UK's lead to 55-40, Ellis attempted a quick flip pass after getting a loose ball.
Renaldo Garcia made UK pay for the rushed pass with a three-pointer that cut the lead to 55-43.
UK called time with 7:57 left.
An inbounds pass netted Sean Sutton a layup. Besides halting Florida's rally, the layup enabled Sutton to tie his career high of nine points.
After Schintzius missed again, Miller added a fast break, his 11th straight shot that fell.
Only the final score had to be settled.
Sean Sutton topped his previous career high with two free throws in the final 2:11.
Both shots silenced a crowd chanting "Daddy's Boy" at the UK guard.
"Getting a career high is nice," Sean Sutton said. "I'm more glad we got the win. To go 3-0 after everybody had written us off, well, we're proving something to people."
Florida's Walker transferring
Florida's Johnny Walker, who failed to meet the NCAA academic standards for freshman eligibility (commonly known as Proposition 48), is transferring.
Florida announced last night that Walker would enroll at a junior college.
It was believed that Walker would attend Chipola Junior College in Mariana, Fla.
Walker, the state's "Mr. Basketball," averaged 34.5 points, 23.6 rebounds and 6.9 blocked shots as a senior.
Walker, a 6-8 forward, had supposedly met the minimum score for an American College Test allowed by the NCAA. However, a review of the test indicated Walker had not scored at least a 15.