Date story was published: Saturday, December 22, 1990
LOUISVILLE -- When Rick Pitino said he wanted more three-point attempts, he meant per game. Not per minute.
Kentucky threatened a record for frequency if not accuracy before settling down to beat Western Kentucky 84-70 last night.
Being too eager to shoot produced a poor night with three-pointers, Pitino said. The Wildcats made just nine of 36 three-point attempts.
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But Western's 26 turnovers and Richie Farmer's career-high 22 points enabled UK to win for the sixth time in eight games.
Western, which got a career-high 22 points from sub Harold Thompkins, fell to 2-6.
Pitino cited a Western defensive strategy for his team's poor three-point shooting. Undersized Western collapsed inside, giving UK open threes.
"We played a little bit like last year," Pitino said. "We were taking the very first available three-pointer. They were good shots."
But, not Kentucky shots, Pitino said.
"It's a good system, but not ours," Pitino said of the quick shooting. "It's Loyola Marymount's. We want ball movement. When we got it, we obviously played better."
Pitino said his recent emphasis on more three-pointers did not contribute to the quick shooting.
"The defense was giving it to us," he said. "They were all wide open. They did a good job taking away some of our inside play. They gambled and it paid off."
But in this clash of close friends and similar systems, Western also got little production from its three-point attack. Western, which entered the game averaging 24.7 three-point attempts, got off only 14.
"The only way to lose was if we did not guard the three," Pitino said. "We're obviously more talented. We have more depth. We're bigger. The way to neutralize those factors is to get up the threes. It's the great neutralizer in the game today."
Ironically, UK's repeated misfires on three-pointers neutralized its superiority last night.
At halftime, Kentucky led by a misleading score of 37-25.
The Cats struggled most of the half, making just three of 19 three-point attempts (16 percent).
With three minutes left, the teams were tied at 23-23.
Five straight Western turnovers and a pair of UK three-pointers -- finally -- enabled the Cats to take a 12-point lead into intermission.
UK, which was hitting 38.6 percent of its three-pointers, missed its first nine attempts. Jeff Brassow broke the spell at the 10:15 mark with a trey from his favorite spot: the left corner.
Asked about UK's poor shooting, Brassow said, "Just ice cold. That's all there was to it. They just were not falling. You have to keep shooting. You know they're going to fall."
Instead of sparking a run of three-pointers, Brassow's shot merely interrupted a string of misses. The Cats misfired on their next seven three- pointers. Farmer broke the spell with a pair in the final 1:18. The second, a high-arching shot over a on-rushing Western defender, came with three seconds left and set the halftime score.
UK opened the half crisply. Reggie Hanson slapped the tap to Sean Woods who fed John Pelphrey for a layup three seconds into the game.
But Western showed it would not tremble in fear of UK. The Hilltoppers took a 15-10 lead.
With 7:35 left, Hanson showed how unnerved UK seemed against a quicker opponent. He banked in his first free throw, then saw the second bounce high off the rim and in.
The unusual free throws tied the score at 17-17.
With the score tied at 23, Western crumbled. The five straight turnovers gave Western 16 for the half. Point guard Anthony Palm had five in the half and seven for the game.
"Once we got the ball past midcourt, that was our problem," said Western's first-year coach, Ralph Willard, Pitino's close friend and former assistant. "We execute our game plan till we get tired. Then we tend to break down mentally more than physically. Turnovers hurt us very badly."
Ironically, three-pointers kept UK comfortably ahead early in the second half.
Brassow hit a pair of treys. The second gave UK its largest lead to that point, 48-34.
"The three-point shot is better off ball movement," Pitino said of UK's six-for-17 second-half effort. "Move the ball, then move the player."
Western turnovers kept the lead safe until Brassow could put it away with 8:31 left.
When Woods missed his patented shot, a leaning banker from the left side of the lane, Brassow ran in from the right and one-handed the rebound through the hoop.
"Usually when the shot comes from the opposite side, the ball bounces up," Brassow said. "I had a wide-open lane to the basket. I happened to have a clean lane."
The dunk gave UK a 63-47 lead and caused the crowd to let loose some of the steam built up through the many missed three-pointers.