Date story was published: Thursday, January 24, 1991
If it's possible to enjoy an 81-65 defeat, Florida Coach Lon Kruger did last night.
Kentucky's chemistry -- reflected in a 52-37 rebounding edge, 15 steals and 36 deflections -- appealed to the coach in Kruger.
"I like watching them play," he said. "I don't necessarily like coaching against them."
To hear UK Coach Rick Pitino, the Cats were on the brink of stagnation. UK had showed signs of stopping to smell their sweet success so far this season. So Pitino this week instituted what he called a new rule: "Guard like we want or you don't play. Block out like we want or you don't play."
Jeff Brassow did a lot of both, grabbing a career-high 10 rebounds and making four steals to pace Kentucky's 10th straight victory. UK improved to 15-2 overall and 7-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Florida fell to 7-9 and 3-4.
"I really, really love the way Jeff Brassow played," Pitino said. "And I'm not talking just about the spectacular dunk."
The last two of Brassow's 15 points came on a two-hand follow dunk off a Sean Woods miss with 2:55 left.
"We got spectacular play from Jeff Brassow the whole night," Pitino said. "I want 13 Jeff Brassows. I want every single guy playing that way."
While the dunk capped his evening, Brassow showed early he would be active defensively. He scored UK's first basket, stealing an inbounds pass and flipping in a short jumper.
"If you can get a steal and get in the flow early, it feels good," Brassow said. "It settles you down and you can relax. It was a big key.
"I felt I'd have a good game. I hadn't played well supposedly the last few games."
Brassow smiled when told of Pitino wishing for 13 Brassows.
"He wants us to reflect his image," Brassow said. "To play as hard as he would. I'm not the most talented guy. I'm definitely not the most gifted. I have to make up for it in other areas."
If he had 13 Brassows, Pitino said, UK would sacrifice style for effectiveness.
"He doesn't try to be Bob Cousy or Magic," Pitino said of Brassow. "He stays fundamental. The most important thing is not the lookaway pass."
The pointed reference was to John Pelphrey, UK's savvy small forward. Pelphrey apparently strayed from Pitino's "new rule," so he was benched mid- way through the second half. Seldom-used Henry Thomas stepped in and scored a career-high four points, fueling an 8-2 run that gave Kentukcy a 63-50 working margin with eight minutes left.
Brassow's hustle and Sean Woods' Isiah Thomas impersonation saved a first half lacking in much artistry.
Missed dunks (two by Florida) and poor UK shooting (14 of 41) took away from the half's appeal.
Kentucky continued its recent cold perimeter shooting. UK made just two of 14 three-point attempts. The Cats finished 5-for-24 on three-pointers.
Still, Brassow and Woods propelled the Cats to 38-32 lead at intermission. A 28-16 rebounding edge helped, too. Reggie Hanson grabbed 12 in the first half.
Four of Brassow's nine first-half points came off steals. He stole an inbounds pass and hit a short jumper to account for UK's first basket.
Later, Brassow stole an inbounds pass near mid-court and sped to a driving dunk.
That shot tied it at 11-11.
With Florida up 15-13, Brassow caught a slow-moving Hosie Grimsley from behind and blocked the layup attempt.
Brassow's final basket of the half -- off a high-post pass from Reggie Hanson -- gave UK a 25-22 lead.
Florida hung tough with a new-found defensive intensity, a point of emphasis last week for Kruger.
Florida tipped several feeds inside and jumping jack center Dwayne Davis blocked three shots.
UK had hit just 11 of its first 35 shots when Woods took over.
Kentucky's point guard scored 11 straight points, all coming off drives to the basket. His final two baskets gave the Cats their largest leads of the half: 34-26 and 36-28.
On the first, he benefited from a NBA-like continuation call. Fouled early in the drive, Woods got credit for the basket.
"Their guys were getting tired," Woods said. "I saw that. I took my chance to see what I could do."
UK slowly extended its lead throughout the second half.
Thomas' two baskets came off nifty passes by Deron Feldhaus and Hanson and gave UK a 63-50 lead.
Later, the Cats ripped off nine straight points to take its largest lead: 79-58.
Brassow's two-hand dunk off Woods' miss made it 77-58.
"I saw Sean coming down the middle of the lane," Brassow said. "I knew he was bound to miss one because he was making them all night."
Woods finished the run with another of his patented leaning bankers off penetration, this one set up with a behind-the-back dribble.
"Kentucky had pretty good control from the start," Kruger said. "Every guy on the floor was totally involved. That's what we're after. Our guys are probably tired of hearing 'Let's play like Kentucky.' "