Date story was published: Sunday, December 24, 1989
Southwestern Louisiana rallied from a six-point overtime deficit to beat Kentucky 116-113 last night in the University of Kentucky Invitational Tournament championship game.
Kentucky failed to win the UKIT in back-to-back years for only the second time in the tournament's 37-year history. Jerry West-led West Virginia won in 1959 followed by St. Louis in 1960. St. Louis beat UK 74-72 in the only previous UKIT overtime game.
UK led 113-107 with 1:44 left in overtime. Two baskets by Reggie Hanson, limited to 18 minutes because of foul trouble, helped put the Cats ahead in overtime. Deron Feldhaus' three-pointer produced the six-point lead.
But Southwestern Louisiana scored the game's final nine points to snatch UK's victory.
"We learned one valuable lesson, and every team I've had learns this lesson: That's not to celebrate too early," UK coach Rick Pitino said. "We thought the game was over. And it was not."
A post-up basket, which hurt UK repeatedly, cut the lead to 113-109 and began the 9-0 run.
After Derrick Miller fired up a quick three-point miss, the Ragin' Cajuns drew to within one when point guard Aaron Mitchell got a second chance to hit a three-pointer. Kevin Brooks had rebounded Mitchell's miss and fed him the ball for another trey. The second swished.
"We made critical mistakes thinking the game was over," Pitino said. "We had a five-man on Mitchell, and that should never happen. We got up and we didn't work on defense."
John Pelphrey missed a baseline 12-footer that would have extended Kentucky's lead.
Trailing 113-112, USL called a timeout with 23 seconds left. UK saw the offensive alignment and called another timeout.
When play resumed, forward Marcus Stokes cut to the basket, took a lob from Mitchell and muscled in a go-ahead layup with 20 seconds left.
"They picked low and we just missed the steal," Pitino said. "We were supposed to switch out and we did not. We learned a valuable lesson."
UK, 5-3, did not get a good shot to regain the lead. Sean Woods, the hero of Friday's 88-71 over Portland, tried a leaning, off-balance 15-footer. It bounced off the rim.
Stokes rebounded the miss and was fouled. He hit two free throws with six second left to increase the lead to 116-113.
UK, which shot an NCAA record 47 three-pointers against Furman Tuesday, tried 53 last night. The Cats and USL combined for an NCAA record 84 three- point attempts, bettering the 67 tried by UK and Furman Tuesday. The Cats figured to try another. But Mitchell fouled Woods with three seconds left as UK's point guard dribbled past midcourt. Another lesson presumably learned.
"We were telling him to foul," USL coach Marty Fletcher said. "We were telling him to foul. We weren't going to see if we could dodge another bullet."
Woods missed the front end of the one-and-one. Brooks rebounded. The game was over.
USL, which improved its record to 7-0, played the overtime without its leading scorer. Guard Sydney Grider sprained an ankle and left the game with 3:23 left in regulation. Grider, who came to the UKIT averaging 30 points, finished with 22.
Kentucky had two chances to win in the final seconds of regulation. Tied at 103, Woods missed a turnaround from the foul line. Feldhaus rebounded, but his banker in traffic rolled off the rim.
Kentucky had to feel good at halftime, tied with USL at 49-49.
The Cats lost Hanson to foul trouble less than two minutes into the game. Hanson, the team's leading rebounder (7.7) and second-leading scorer (14.6), picked up his second foul at the 18:24 mark. He went to the bench and didn't return for the rest of the half.
Hanson's third and fourth fouls came 37 seconds apart. He went back to the bench with 14:47 left in regulation.
"Reggie's fouls tonight were not the product of him getting beat," Pitino said. "They were a product of our guards getting beat and him helping out."
Other than Hanson's quick fouls, Kentucky got off to a fast start. The Cats zipped to an 18-8 lead barely four minutes into the game.
Warming to the challenge of Grider, the nation's most prolific three-point shooter (5.4 per game), Miller came out firing. Although he forced some shots, Miller hit a pair of three-pointers to get UK out quickly.
"I don't think nervous is the right word," Fletcher said. "We forced some shots and got out of sync."
Little went right for Southwestern Louisiana. Miller blanketed Grider, who hit only one outside shot in the first 11 minutes.
Brooks, who had hit all 25 of his foul shots entering the game, missed two free throws.
UK led by as much as 30-17, but several factors prevented a runaway.
The up-tempo pace was one. "I told them there would be 15 big swings in the game," Pitino said.
Southwestern Louisiana dominated inside. The Ragin' Cajuns outrebounded UK 62-48. USL posted up continually, and profitably. USL got 11 post-up baskets.
"Time and time again," Pitino said of USL's low-post game. "But there's nothing you can do. That's something that will exist till we get bigger people."
UK's cold shooting and Grider's predictable re-emergence offensively also helped tighten the game.
Leading 23-13 at the 24:30 mark, UK made just 10 of its next 34 shots. Richie Farmer's cold spell continued. He missed his three first-half shots -- all treys -- and finished one for five from the field.
Grider scored 12 of his 14 first-half points after Kentucky had taken its 23-13 lead.
After UK took its 30-17 lead, USL reeled off 10 straight points. Two rebound baskets and a pair of treys brought the Ragin' Cajuns back.
The teams played evenly till the end of the half.
Neither team took control of the second half. There were nine ties after intermission.
USL led 67-61 early.
The Ragin' Cajuns took psychological control -- briefly -- when Mitchell roared down the lane on the fast break and dunked over a waiting Johnathon Davis. The slam put USL ahead 85-80 with 9:01 left.
Feldhaus countered with a post-up.
Neither team led by more than three thereafter.