Date story was published: Thursday, November 29, 1990
CINCINNATI -- Excluding last season's gimme against hapless Florida, Kentucky had not won a road game since January of 1989, when UK won 66-65 at Tennessee.
Last night's 75-71 victory over Cincinnati was worth the wait of 20 games and 21 months.
UK (2-0) simply out-gutted Cincinnati (2-1), overcoming an unsteady first half and the prospect of almost squandering a 14-point second-half lead.
With a crowd of 13,176 roaring its approval, Cincinnati reduced a 55-41 deficit to 69-68. Almost three minutes -- 2:48 to be exact -- remained on the slow-moving clock.
Unlike several away games last season (Mississippi State and Auburn come quickly to mind), UK held firm and refused to yield.
Reggie Hanson, who led Kentucky with 20 points, capped a string of clutch plays by the Cats. With UK clinging to a 71-69 lead, Hanson alertly drove around substitute Curtis Bostic for a clinching layup. It gave the Cats a four-point lead with 28 seconds left.
After Louis Banks, Cincinnati's all-conference forward, forced up one more miss (his 15th in 20 attempts), Richie Farmer added two free throws.
"This was a hell of a road win for Kentucky," Coach Rick Pitino said. "Obviously, we're ecstatic. A lot of times last year, with the fatigue factor being there, when the crowd got going and other team made its run, it got to us a little bit. Tonight, all the tough losses paid off for us."
When the going got tough, "we knew what to do," Pitino said. "We knew to not to freeze the ball. Move the ball to score and don't let them foul you and get back into the game. We knew to cut back-door at the right time. Last year we were trying to learn what to do while we're out there. That never works out."
Coaching played a part in the victory. Pitino abandoned his signature strategy -- the full-court press -- against Cincinnati's athletes.
"This was the first time as a coach I did not press," Pitino said.
Instead, UK sagged its half-court defense -- mostly man-to-man -- into the lane and dared Cincinnati to win from outside. The Bearcats couldn't, making 31.3 percent of its shots (21 of 67).
"It's tough to shoot it that bad and win," UC Coach Bob Huggins said. "Early on, we were out of our offense. We had too much one-on-one. Later on, we had plenty of opportunities. We didn't react in transition and finish the play."
"We knew they weren't a good shooting team," said another Kentucky hero, Jeff Brassow. "But they are one hell of a offensive rebounding team. That's the only reason we almost lost."
Cincinnati's 27 offensive rebounds threw a scare at Kentucky. "Oh my, they just ate up the glass," Hanson said. "When we blocked out, we didn't push out. We put a body on them, but we didn't push back."
Despite an awful first-half by its point guards, Kentucky led 35-33 at halftime.
Starter Sean Woods wilted under Cincinnati's constant trapping defense, committing eight turnovers.
His backup, Farmer, coughed up the ball twice against the traps in his brief stint at the point and went to the bench. Farmer returned late in the half at two-guard.
Cincinnati had 11 steals in the first half, but hit only nine of 38 shots for 23.7 percent.
Only yeoman work on the offensive board kept Cincinnati in the game. The Bearcats got only four baskets from its set offense. The rest came on second, third and fourth opportunities. UC had 17 offensive rebounds in the half, propelling the home team to a 26-23 rebounding edge.
Kentucky never trailed despite committing 16 turnovers "because we were playing outstanding defense," Pitino said.
John Pelphrey's three-pointer gave UK the lead for good at 5-2. Freshman Jamal Mashburn scored five of his seven first-half points in the first five minutes to help the Cats to a 10-4 lead.
UC stayed close by pounding the boards. The Bearcats did not get a basket off the half-court set offense until junior college transfer Herb Jones posted up over Brassow at the 8:56 mark.
Kentucky broke the game open -- and looked good in the process -- early in the second half.
The Cats' 11-2 run established a 52-39 lead with 13:39 left. It also showed UK could function against Cincinnati's defensive pressure.
Mashburn got the run started with a three-pointer from the corner.
After Banks converted a pass through Mashburn's hands with a dunk, the Cats took off.
Brassow nailed a three-pointer to make it 47-39.
A UK trap yielded a steal, leading to Mashburn's fastbreak layup to establish the game's first double-digit lead, 49-39.
Hanson made it 52-39, showing skill at both ends. He stole Keith Starks' at the top of the key, then fended Starks off with his body in making a left- handed layup. Fouled, Hanson hit the free throw.
At the 13:07 mark, Brassow hit a three-pointer to give Kentucky its largest lead: 55-41.
The Cats could not stand prosperity. Two turnovers, a forced Pelphrey leaner in the lane and another miss marked Kentucky's next four possessions.
Cincinnati reeled off nine straight points to cut the lead to 55-50 and prompt a Kentucky timeout with 9:20 left.
Pitino replaced Woods, who had four fouls, with Farmer at point guard. Farmer hit a momentum-stopping jumper from the baseline to stop the bleeding and give UK a 57-50 lead.
UC slowly cut into Kentucky's lead, but got no closer than 69-68.
UK dodged a bullet when Bostic, who missed his six field-goal attempts, tried a debatable turnaround over Hanson.
"He wanted to do too much too soon, I guess," Hanson said. "I'm just glad he took that shot."
Bostic fouled Hanson on the rebound, allowing UK's lone senior to increase the Cat lead to 71-68 with two free throws.