Date story was published: Monday, February 4, 1991
Soft-spoken. Shy. Deferential.
To those qualities, Jamal Mashburn yesterday added observant.
Early foul trouble benched Kentucky's top scorer, John Pelphrey, and its point guard, Sean Woods. Reggie Hanson, the Cats' second-leading scorer and spiritual anchor, was oddly out of it, his only basket coming 11 seconds before the final buzzer.
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"When everybody got in foul trouble, I felt I had to do it," Mashburn said.
"The Monster Mash," as he's affectionately known, filled the void. And then some. Mashburn scored 31 points, the most by a freshman in school history, to lead Kentucky to a 96-84 victory over Georgia in Rupp Arena.
Not that Mashburn, who eclipsed Rick Robey's freshman record of 28 points (against Vanderbilt in 1975), was the only hero in UK's time of need. Richie Farmer came in for Woods and scored 16 points, the most he's tallied since getting 22 against Western Kentucky on Dec. 21. Nehemiah "Junior" Braddy did not miss a shot, going five for five from the field, including a pair of three-pointers in a season-high 13-point contribution.
Combined with an intense defensive effort that bothered Georgia star guard Litterial Green into 8-for-24 shooting, UK found a way to win for the 17th time in 20 games. The Cats improved their Southeastern Conference record to a league-best 9-1.
"I'm really pleased with the victory because we had a lot of adversity with foul trouble," Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said. "We got a great, great monster game out of Jamal. He was just big at every facet."
Mashburn also contributed a game-high six steals, a team-leading eight rebounds and a bordering-on-the-unbelievable four blocked shots.
"Career high," said Mashburn, smiling broadly.
His previous high was one. He had had five blocks all season.
"They took it at me, really," Mashburn said. "Coach Pitino says you have to play defense or you don't play. So I plan on playing defense. I want to play."
In all, UK blocked 16 shots. The previous high this season was the 10 against cement-footed Penn in the season opener. Hanson led the way with five.
"Sixteen is unbelievable," Pelphrey said. "We don't block that many against ourselves in practice. Reggie's five, that's no big deal. Jamal gets four and (in a sarcastic tone) a couple other leaping guys inside get a couple. It's really hard to believe."
Must have been the national television coverage courtesy of ABC, Pelphrey decided. "The guys wanted everybody to see how high they jump," he said.
Georgia coach Hugh Durham and Mashburn dissented.
"When you get 16 blocks, more than likely two people get credit," Durham said. "Kentucky did a good job and we have to take responsibility of not taking good shots. I thought talent-wise, we were talented enough to win. I thought our effort was strong enough. Some of the decisions were not as good as they need to be to win against a quality team."
Mashburn conceded "a lot of people in New York tuned in, a lot of friends and family members. They probably tuned in."
"I knew they tuned in," Mashburn corrected.
But, he added, the TV coverage did not affect his game.
"When you go out with things like that on your mind, you won't play very well," he said.
Necessity was the mother of Mashburn's game, Pitino said.
"Jamal's an extremely bright guy," the Kentucky coach said. "He's so humble at times. He says, look, it's Reggie's year."
True, Mashburn said. "It's easy to take a back seat to him," Mashburn said of Hanson.
"He knew Reggie was out of it," Pitino said. "He knew he had to take over."
Georgia, 11-8 overall and 4-6 in the SEC, looked to induce Pelphrey into early foul trouble.
"Not only is he talented," Durham said, "but Pelphrey's maybe the glue for Kentucky."
Pelphrey had three fouls and a seat on the bench with 12:23 still to go in the first half.
Woods had two fouls and a seat at the 14:52 mark.
UK compensated with an inside-oriented attack. The Cats hit 16 of 21 first- half shots inside the three-point line. Mashburn made eight of eight inside.
Despite falling behind by as much as 14 in the first half, Georgia closed to within four, 52-48, early in the second half.
UK could not build a cushion until eight minutes remained. Mashburn began an 8-1 run with a three-pointer. Pelphrey, who scored nine of his 14 points in the second half, provided the capper: an up-and-under layup and free throw. The three-point play gave the Cats a 79-68 lead with 7:37 left.
A mix-up with the assigned television timeouts unintentionally aided Kentucky's break. Durham expected a TV timeout to be called at the eight- minute mark. Had it been called, the game would have been stopped after Mashburn's three-pointer put the Cats ahead 74-67.
But the television time had been waived because another made-for-TV stoppage, at the 11:55 mark, ran longer than expected. A UK cheerleader cartwheeled backward into referee John Clougherty's upper torso. The game was delayed as Clougherty lay on the floor. He got up and retreated to the referee's dressing room to regain his composure.
With 7:41 left and Georgia behind 76-67, Durham complained bitterly. Only then did he learn the 8:00 TV timeout had been waived. Georgia finally called time at the 7:11 mark.
Though irritated by the mix-up, Durham said he could not use it as an excuse.
"I have too much respect for the job Mashburn did," the Georgia coach said, "and the job Pelphrey did in the second half."