Date story was published: Tuesday, March 6, 1990
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame guard Joe Fredrick saved his best for last.
Still, he needed a little help from God, he said, to lead Notre Dame past Kentucky 80-67 last night.
Fredrick, one of five senior players honored in Notre Dame's home finale, equaled his season high with 23 points.
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Fredrick scored 13 in the second half, including three three-pointers, to lead a Notre Dame comeback that erased a one-time 12-point Kentucky lead.
Fredrick's biggest three-pointer came without benefit of a good look at the basket. With Notre Dame clinging to a 63-58 lead and UK defending the 45- second shot clock to expiration, Fredrick gobbled up a loose ball, turned in the air and directed it toward the basket.
The flat shot crawled over the rim and in. Besides putting the Irish ahead 66-58 with 4:41 left, the shot told both teams which would win.
"Usually, I only shoot that in the backyard," Fredrick said. "That's a H- O-R-S-E shot. I won't take credit for that. God helped."
If so, God helped improve Notre Dame's record to 16-11, keeping alive Irish hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid.
"It comes down to what we do Saturday (at DePaul)," Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps said.
UK, much the better team for a half, completed its season at 14-14.
"Lucky shot," Derrick Miller said of Fredrick's clutch three-pointer. "On sentimental evenings, things seem to bounce your way."
At halftime, when Kentucky had forged a 37-30 lead, the Irish could see embarrassment -- not sentimentality -- marking the occasion.
UK had won only once away from Rupp Arena all season. And that at Florida, the Southeastern Conference's last-place team.
Plus, Fredrick said, the NCAA Selection Committee probably would insist on a victory last night, even after Notre Dame's stunning 98-67 conquest of No. 3 Missouri Saturday.
"To lose to Kentucky, which had won only once on the road, wouldn't look good to the committee," Fredrick said. "Down seven (at halftime), reality hits you."
For much of the first half, Kentucky played like the team straining to convince the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee it deserved to be in the 64- team field.
The Cats alertly countered Notre Dame. When the Irish played man-to-man, the Cats cut backdoor. When the Irish went zone, UK hit three-pointers.
Notre Dame? The on-the-bubble Irish played bubble-headed for much of first half. Notre Dame strangely was content to shoot jumpers and not use its height advantage inside.
In one seven-minute stretch, the Irish did not take a shot from the low post against the smaller Wildcats.
Phelps placed much of the blame on passive LaPhonso Ellis, his team's main force inside.
"He was shooting fadeaways," Phelps said, "when I wanted him taking it strong to the hoop. I told him, 'I don't know what you're trying to prove.' "
Fredrick said: "Coach kind of ripped him up at halftime."
Ellis scored 11 of his 12 points and grabbed 10 of his 14 rebounds in the second half.
Twice in the opening seconds, the two teams' states of efficiency were revealed.
UK's Reggie Hanson won the tap. But he hit the ball out of bounds.
No problem. John Pelphrey picked off Kevin Ellery's floating inbounds pass and fed Sean Woods for a layup.
Center Keith Robinson posted up for a layup at the 19:33 mark that tied the score at 2-2.
The Irish didn't shoot another low-post shot until the 12:28 mark when Robinson was fouled on a layup attempt.
Notre Dame didn't get many offensive rebounds. One -- by freshman Monty Williams off Scott Paddock's missed free throw -- gave the Irish their largest lead: 19-16.
"Kentucky came at us very, very hard," Phelps said. "We were a little relaxed."
Notre Dame then came out of its man-to-man, which had sparked some life in the home team. On back-to-back possessions, Deron Feldhaus and Derrick Miller were stripped of the ball as they looked to shoot.
But the Cats found it easier to score when Notre Dame switched to a 2-3 zone.
More Notre Dame futility contributed to a breakout that produced UK's largest lead of the night: 37-25.
Miller, who led UK with 17 points, stole a rebound under the basket and laid it in.
After Notre Dame got one shot -- the Irish struggled mightily but futilely to beat UK's boxing-out tactics -- Jeff Brassow hit another three-pointer.
When Notre Dame switched back to man-to-man, Hanson cut past his man for a dunk that gave UK its 12-point lead.
The opening moments of the second half gave promise of a Kentucky victory.
After faking a three-pointer, Pelphrey saw Notre Dame's zone relax. He drove to a layup.
On UK's next possession, Robinson got caught on a switch, guarding Woods. UK's point guard breezed to a layup to give the Cats a 43-33 lead.
The only dark cloud on UK's horizon came on Notre Dame's possession before Woods' layup. Hanson, UK's Mr. Indispensable, picked up his third foul with 17:47 left.
Fredrick's first three-pointer cut UK's lead to 43-36.
Point guard Elmer Bennett scored a career-high 22 points in contributing to the comeback.
Bennett's three-pointer with 6:33 left gave Notre Dame a 60-58 lead. When Kevin Ellery, a Springfield native, followed with a three-pointer and Fredrick beat the clock with his three-point flip, the Irish had a 66-58 lead to protect.
"We played as intelligent and as well as we could in the first half," UK coach Rick Pitino said. "That spurt from the three-point line really broke our momentum."