Date story was published: Sunday, March 3, 1991
Gentleman, start your fire engines.
Last was certainly not least as Kentucky battered Auburn 114-93 in the season's finale. The rout:
Represented UK's first 100-point game of the season.
Punctuated a season of surprising achievement.
Cemented plans for several public celebrations.
Irked at a Southeastern Conference rule making Kentucky ineligible for the regular-season championship, UK Director of Athletics C.M. Newton joked last month of riding a fire engine down Main Street in recognition of the 1990-91 team.
He was not joking.
A parade through downtown Lexington -- several fire engines at the ready -- is set for Tuesday, Newton said.
Starting time: 3:15 p.m.
Starting location: Memorial Coliseum.
Newton called it an old-fashioned parade for a Kentucky team built on old- fashioned values of hard work and hustle.
The tried and true pep rally -- "The dad-gummest pep rally ever held at the University of Kentucky," Newton said -- will follow at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Memorial Coliseum.
Newton also announced that rings inscribed with "SEC No. 1 -- Back on Top" -- had been ordered.
"We want these guys to know what they've done," Newton said. "They've got Kentucky back on top."
That Solomon-like decision seemed to settle the running debate of whether UK claimed its 37th SEC championship or merely this season's best league record.
An SEC rule prohibits teams banned from post-season play from being eligible to win a regular-season championship. By beating Auburn before a Rupp Arena record crowd of 24,310, the Cats claimed an SEC-best 14-4 record (22-6 overall).
Louisiana State lost at Mississippi State earlier yesterday, leaving those two teams as official SEC co-champions at 13-5. But still not in Kentucky coach Rick Pitino's eyes.
"We told the guys, no matter whose opinion is right or wrong, valid or invalid, it's all irrelevant," Pitino said. "Championships are won or lost on the court. We faced one of the toughest schedules in the country and came out SEC champs.
"Special K does not stand for a cereal. It really stands for this basketball team. They were great."
Kentucky dominated Auburn from tip-off to final buzzer. The game resembled Operation Desert Storm on basketball time: decided in the first 15 minutes, the rest a mopping-up exercise.
"Kentucky's ability to shoot, particularly the three-point basket, was the key," Auburn coach Tommy Joe Eagles said. "They shot it earlier than we anticipated. When they missed, their offensive rebounding in the first half was critical. When somebody shoots like they did in the first half (59.5 percent), it digs you a big hole."
Kentucky made 10 of 19 first-half three-point shots and 16 for 34 in the game. Such accuracy propelled the Cats to their first 100-point game of the season, and 26th in school history. The last time Kentucky scored as many as 114 points in a game came in a 126-81 victory over South Carolina on Dec. 10, 1979.
Auburn had not given up so many points since Feb. 10, 1975, when UK set a record for a Tigers opponent in a 119-76 victory.
Pitino said his pregame talk centered on avoiding the propensity of upsets in college basketball. He told the team, "What we had to do was one thing and that's what we did in every game for two years," Pitino said. "Just play hard. That's it and they'll be no upset and you'll be SEC champions by yourself."
Kentucky ripped off the game's first eight points. Freshman Jamal Mashburn scored six and finished with a team-high 21 points.
The Cats extended the lead to as much as 26 points before settling for a 65-43 halftime advantage. Auburn got no closer than 17 in the second half.
"It was offensive tonight," Pitino said. "Normally, it's been defense."
Of the two UK seniors given the traditional sentimental sendoff, only one, Johnathon Davis, had a relatively good night. Davis, who had played 20 minutes all season, got in with 15:15 left in the first half. He hit a free throw and a layup. Davis finished wih five points in his 14 minutes, increasing his season total to six.
"I'm always prepared to go in," Davis said. "I'm happy I could go in and not embarrass myself."
Reggie Hanson, the other senior, struggled through 3-for-10 shooting (including two air-ball hooks) and finished with 11 points.
Asked if he was pressing, Hanson said, "Probably was. It was an emotional night. Like all season, the rest of the guys stepped up and did a great job. That's what our team was all about -- teamwork."
UK's pressure defense had its moments. Auburn committed 13 first-half turnovers, 24 for the game, and fell into a fast-paced game.
"If they can get you to play up and down, that's their style," Eagles said. "They're so good at that. Their guards did an excellent job of keeping us in an up-and-down game. Maybe our inexperience raised its head a little bit in attacking Kentucky's pressure."
A fear he expressed Thursday came true, Eagles said. The Auburn coach predicted the referees would allow extra bumping UK's Seniors Night, Eagles said.
With 10:18 left in the half, Auburn point guard Reggie Gallon faced a two- man trap at midcourt. As UK's trappers pressed, Gallon crumbled to the floor.
Referee George Washington, one of two officials making his Rupp debut, called walking.
Eagles advanced angrily onto the court, swinging an arm so violently he slung his tie over his right shoulder. Washington called a technical foul.
Richie Farmer -- who scored 20 points, assuring him a double-figure average for the season -- hit both technical free throws, increasing UK's lead to 34-18.
Somehow, you could almost hear the fire engines starting up.