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NEAR-PERFECT CATS RIP TIDE

Date story was published: Thursday, January 18, 1990

Except for a distracting courtside spectator named Lawrence Funderburke, Kentucky had a no-complaint night at Rupp Arena.

The Cats passed, shot, rebounded and defended with unprecedented crispness. The result was a convincing 82-65 victory last night over Southeastern Conference contender Alabama.

"We can't play any better than that," Coach Rick Pitino said. "That's the best we've played in every facet. I don't know what phase of the game to praise first. . . . We even milked the clock. We never did that well before tonight."

Kentucky spread the floor in the final five minutes, not so much to protect a lead but to practice the tactic. Remember, the Cats looked uncomfortable in a slower tempo at Louisiana State Saturday.

UK improved to 7-8 overall and 3-3 in the SEC.

Alabama, which came into the game four points from an unbeaten record, fell to 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the SEC.

Funderburke's trouble-filled five-month college career includes two schools found in violation of NCAA recruiting rules and two enrollments. He quit the Indiana team after only six games on Dec. 14. Yesterday, it was announced the 6-foot-8 freshman forward had enrolled at St. Catharine College, a junior college in Springfield.

Kentucky, one of the schools found to have violated rules in recruiting Funderburke, has made many vows of complete compliance with NCAA standards.

Yet, there was Funderburke, dressed in a red warmup suit, sitting in the first row under the basket near Kentucky's bench. Pitino said the St. Catharine coach, Jack Pack, asked for two tickets. The UK coaches were not aware Funderburke would use one of them, Pitino said.

Pitino and a visibly annoyed UK athletics director C.M. Newton said the school will not pursue Funderburke. Ever.

"Let's end the speculation," Newton said. "Funderburke will not come to Kentucky. As athletics director, I say he will not be at UK as a scholarship player or a walk-on for all kinds of reasons, mentioned and unmentioned."

Eddie Ford, a youth coach from Madisonville, is quoted in next week's issue of Sports Illustrated as saying Newton's earlier statements disavowing any interest in Funderburke as "a smokescreen."

Newton called Ford's comment "ludicrous."

Asked if Funderburke's presence was embarrassing, Newton said: "Sure it's embarrassing. We should be concentrating on what the kids here are doing, and what the kids at Indiana are doing. Rather than some guy who quit a team."

Kentucky kids befuddled Alabama. The Cats broke to a 6-0 lead and never trailed.

The lead grew to as much as 12 in the first half. UK led 42-30 at halftime.

In the second half, the Cats stretched the lead to as much as 24. Bama got no closer than 17 in the final 16 minutes.

Asked if he expected a blowout victory, Reggie Hanson said: "That was the last thing on our minds. They are a great team."

Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson was so upset he began his post-game press conference by announcing he would not entertain questions. His rapid-fire analysis lasted about 45 seconds and concluded with "Kentucky beat us in all categories."

UK had many heroes. The first was Deron Feldhaus.

Feldhaus roared out of the blocks, scoring 10 of UK's first 12 points. The 6-7 sophomore was in double figures four minutes into the game.

Feldhaus had the game's first two baskets. The first came on a reverse layup as he got behind Alabama's baseline defense. A purposeful spin move to the basket set up the second.

"When you hit your first or second shot, that really gives you a confidence booster," Feldhaus said. "And I had some easy baskets."

Feldhaus finished with 19 points, one less than Hanson's team-high 20.

Pitino called Feldhaus' play "outstanding."

Just as important was where Feldhaus and his teammates scored. Pitino counted 31 of UK's 42 first-half points as coming from the inside. The Cats had only two three-pointers.

Alabama's understandable urge to cover the middle in the second half brought back UK's three-point shooting. The Cats made six of 14 three-point attempts in the second half. Derrick Miller, who scored 14 points, had three.

Pitino called it a "great learning lesson in attacking inside to out."

Alabama came into the game leading the SEC in two important defensive categories: points allowed (59.3 overall, 58.8 in SEC play) and opponents' field-goal percentage (38.1 overall, 35.0 in SEC play).

UK hit a season-high 51.8 percent of its shots. The Cats hit 60 points with 14:25 left when Miller hit a three-pointer.

UK's shooting had a side benefit. Each made basket provided another chance to set up the press.

Bama committed 17 turnovers. More importantly, the Tide never established its low-post game, where Alabama "butters its bread," as Pitino said Tuesday.

UK's starting frontline outscored Alabama's 55-28.

"The press was the best it's been all season," Pitino said. "They didn't get a chance to run their half-court offense much."

As if Alabama needed anything else to go wrong, the Tide did not shoot free throws well.

Alabama missed the front end of six one-and-ones in the first half.

By the end of the half, the usually fiery Sanderson sat glumly. His chin rested in his hand.

He stirred infrequently in the second half.

UK has not won away from Rupp this season. At home, the Cats improved to 7-3.

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