Date story was published: Sunday, December 3, 1989
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kentucky coach Rick Pitino doesn't believe in moral victories. Yesterday, he was willing to make an exception.
"I couldn't be any more pleased," Pitino said after UK's 71-69 loss to Indiana. "Counting even the Alabama and Georgetown victories that got us (Providence) to the Final Four, I've never had a team give this much energy. I don't think I've ever been this proud of a basketball team."
In more ways than one, Kentucky missed its shot to pull off the biggest upset in the long, glorious history of UK-Indiana basketball.
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Indiana's fingernail grasp on this game was not secure until a few milliseconds after the final buzzer. With the clock's 0:01 reading fading to 0:00, Sean Woods missed a rushed jumper from where the top of the circle intersects the three-point line. The shot bounced high off the back rim, then fell off the side of the rim as what remained of a Hoosier Dome crowd of 40,128 held its collective breath.
But, afterward, Pitino lamented UK's many misses before Woods' desperation effort. With adequate shooting, Pitino said the Cats would be 2-0 going into Monday night's Southeastern Conference opener at Rupp Arena against Mississippi State.
Indiana's 25 turnovers were testament to its struggles against Kentucky's press. But UK's pressure was diluted by its 36.1 percent shooting, 29.7 percent in the second half.
"If we got to press more, we would have been in control of the game," Pitino said. "But we didn't get to enough times in the second half. If we shoot 48 percent, our press will be hell."
Indiana's young team -- eight freshmen or sophomores among its top 10 -- was in no position to argue.
"Kentucky really established with their press just how inexperienced a basketball team we are," said assistant coach Joby Wright, who stood in for Head Coach Bob Knight in the post-game interview room. Knight had a prior commitment, IU officials said. "We were fortunate to win."
The official statistics credited Kentucky, 1-1, with 12 steals. Ball- hawking John Pelphrey had five.
But Pitino measured the press's effectiveness with his own category of "deflections," which include blocked shots, tipped passes, steals and loose ball recoveries. The Cats had 36 "deflections," one more than the goal Pitino sets for each game.
"That's the second time in my coaching career we got our deflection total and didn't win," Pitino said.
The other came in Providence's loss to Syracuse in the 1987 Final Four semifinals.
Kentucky's pressure had an immediate effect. Indiana committed turnovers on four of its first five possessions.
The effect was long lasting, too. Excepting a 12-minute stretch in the second half when Indiana turned a 48-37 deficit into a 70-60 lead, the Hoosiers never looked comfortable handling the ball. Five of IU's last seven possessions resulted in turnovers, enabling UK to come within a Woods' jumper of sending the game into overtime.
"I think they panicked the whole time," UK's Derrick Miller said. "They didn't handle our press well at all."
Kentucky's shots fell early. The Cats made four of their first six three- point attempts. Deron Feldhaus, who missed his two shots in the opening- night victory over Ohio University, came off the bench to hit a three- pointer and a top-of-the-key jumper.
Feldhaus' two baskets gave UK a 15-11 lead that would balloon to 32-21 with 3:44 left in the half. Pelphrey stripped the ball from IU freshman Lawrence Funderburke and fed Woods for a transition basket.
Indiana's early struggles included a missed dunk by freshman Calbert Cheaney. But two three-pointers by Cheaney in the final 1:58 allowed Indiana to close within 36-32 at the half.
After Kentucky extended its lead to 48-37, three-pointers hurt UK again.
Plays by sophomores Richie Farmer and Johnathon Davis helped establish UK's 11-point second-half lead. Farmer's three-point play on a driving, left- handed bank shot and a free throw made it 44-37. Moments later, Davis stripped Funderburke, leading to two Pelphrey free throws that made it 48-37 with 16:12 left.
"We had it in our hands," Pitino said, "and a couple of three-on-two and two-on-ones didn't go down."
That and a lot of other shots didn't go in. In the final 16 minutes, UK made just six of 26 shots
Meanwhile, Indiana scored 16 straight points to take a 53-48 lead.
Funderburke and another freshman, Pat Graham, did the damage. Funderburke, the Columbus, Ohio, prospect named in UK's NCAA rules violations, made three layups in the run.
Graham, also a prospect on UK's list last season, made two three-pointers. The second gave Indiana the lead for good at 49-48, the Hoosiers' first advanage since 11-10.
Another three-pointer by Graham, who had not scored in Indiana's first two games while playing but three minutes, gave the Hoosiers their largest lead, 70-60.
"We had to give up the three-pointers to cut off their inside people," Pitino said, "and it hurt us. But we had to give up something."
With Indiana's help, Kentucky nearly rallied to win in the final 26 seconds.
Two Feldhaus free throws made it 71-67 at that point. Miller intercepted Eric Anderson's floating inbounds pass, but Pelphrey missed a three, then was called for a debatable walk.
Anderson threw another inbounds pass too long, giving UK another chance. Feldhaus retrieved a tipped shot, double-pumped and rammed it in to make it 71-69 with nine seconds half.
With six seconds left, UK fouled freshman Greg Graham. Graham, no relation to Pat Graham, had made 17 of his 18 free throws this season and all four of his previous tries yesterday.
Graham missed the front end of the one-and-one and Woods rushed to the last shot that wouldn't fall.
"That's as good a game as I think these people are capable of playing," Pitino said. "They can shoot better, no question about it.
"But if we can play this way, I don't care what our record is. The fans should be happy. If the coach is happy, most of the time the fans are happy."