Date story was published: Thursday, February 22, 1990
KNOXVILLE -- A punster could have called it a "distant replay."
Last night, Tennessee was ahead of Kentucky 102-100 when time expired.
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These Southeastern Conference rivals followed a similar script in Rupp Arena on Jan. 20. Behind most of the game and by eight points with 10 minutes left, UK rallied late to win 95-83 last month.
A month later and 170 miles south on Interstate 75, Tennessee once more took charge early. The Vols, who were ahead by 15 early in Lexington, last night established a 58-39 lead at halftime.
Tennessee led by 18 entering the final eight minutes. Once more the Vols wavered.
Three-point baskets and fatigue-defying hustle on the press closed the gap for Kentucky. With Tennessee ahead 89-71, the Cats went on an 11-2 run to make it a game. Richie Farmer, John Pelphrey and Hanson hit three-pointers, part of Kentucky's arena-record 26 three-point attempts. LSU had the record, shooting 24 on Feb. 10.
"I reminded the players on the bench, we aren't going to have another Lexington," Tennessee coach Wade Houston said. "We were going to fight through the screens to prevent the three-point baskets. Whatever it took. We weren't going to quit."
Tennessee's lead was a 100-98 sliver when Reggie Hanson hit a layup while being fouled with 1:18 left.
But Hanson, who played 39 minutes and led UK with 22 points, missed his free throw. It was short off the front of the rim.
With 32 seconds left, Hanson had another chance to cut into the two-point Tennessee lead. Freshman star Allan Houston, limited to four second-half shots by UK's defense and his ball-handling chores against the press, had missed a flip shot in the lane to give UK possession.
Again, Hanson, a 73.3 percent free-throw shooter, missed, this time on the front end of a one-and-one.
"In Lexington we turned into cowards," Tennessee guard Greg Bell said. "I told the guys it won't happen again. This time we redeemed ourselves. We aren't cowards anymore."
For all his bravado, Bell said that Hanson's misses were crucial.
"We needed a break," Bell said. "Hanson missing the free throws was a good break."
Shaky throughout the final 10 minutes, Tennessee barely held on.
Bell's two free throws with 22 seconds left increased the lead to 102-98. He gained possession and was fouled after stretching high to catch Houston's pressured pass against the press.
Hanson's layup with seven seconds left cut the lead to 102-100. A second later, UK called time. The strategy was obvious: Foul, force a five-second count or, in a best-case scenario, pick up Tennessee's 21st turnover of the game.
UK got none of the above.
Unguarded on the baseline, Houston threw a half-court pass to Bell, who flipped the ball back to Houston. As UK closed in on him, Houston dribbled near midcourt and then threw a pass to freshman Lang Wiseman.
Two seconds were left when Wiseman threw up a 25-footer.
"I was hoping he'd pull it out," Wade Houston said. "That wasn't the play that was diagrammed."
Wiseman's shot missed. But by the time UK retrieved the ball, the buzzer had sounded.
Tennessee ran a press offense it calls "Special" on the final inbounds play, Wade Houston said.
"I fake long and they have to protect deep," Bell said. "Ian (Lockhart) sets a screen, and they didn't switch. We caught them off-guard. We've only used that press offense three times all year. No way you can stop that and be ready for it."
Derrick Miller was guarding Bell. Hanson, who was guarding Lockhart, was supposed to switch.
"We had talked about it," Hanson said. "I made a mistake . . . a crucial mistake."
UK fell to 13-12 overall, 9-7 in the SEC. The latter dropped the Cats into fifth place, a half-game behind Tennessee (14-10 overall, 9-6 in the SEC).
Despite the loss, UK's ninth in 10 games away from Rupp Arena, Kentucky coach Rick Pitino was relatively happy.
"In the NBA, you learn how to lose and go on to the next game," said Pitino, the New York Knicks coach the previous two seasons. "For the first time in my life, I can honestly say losing doesn't come easy, but to a certain extent I can accept a loss because of how my team performed."
Specifically, Pitino marveled at the effort with which the Cats pressed and fast-broke.
"With this style, if you don't have 10 guys, it's not ineffective," Pitino said. "It's kind of bordering on the impossible."
A first half of runs left Kentucky on the run. The Cats trailed 58-39 at the break despite throwing a 20-6 run at Tennessee.
The Vols bolted to a 12-2 lead, forcing Pitino to spend a timeout with 17:32 left.
UK rallied, taking a 22-18 lead.
With the game tied at 35-35, Tennessee reeled off a 23-4 run in the final 6:10 of the half.
"We got a little tired," Pitino said, "and they just played great basketball."
Wade Houston called it his team's best stretch of the season.
"That was the difference in the game," he said.