Date story was published: Wednesday, February 6, 1991
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana State went to extraordinary lengths last night to beat Kentucky.
LSU honored former Tiger stars Bob Pettit and the late Pete Maravich, the school's first such ceremony since last season's UK game. The Tiger mascot climbed down a rope from the ceiling. A caged Mike the (real) Tiger was wheeled in.
Indoor fireworks were lit. Smoke bombs exploded.
"It sounded like scud missiles going off," LSU guard Mike Hansen said.
All LSU needed, it turned out, was a routinely excellent performance by 7- foot-1 sophomore center Shaquille O'Neal.
O'Neal, on a mission to destruct No. 10 Kentucky, scored 33 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked seven shots to fuel LSU's 107-88 victory. He has now scored 993 points in less than two seasons.
"I came in with an attitude," O'Neal said. "There's a great rivalry between LSU and Kentucky. I just wanted to come in and go for the kill."
UK's worst loss of the season (three previous defeats by a total of 11 points) added insult to an already sub-par Rick Pitino. The Kentucky coach came to the game suffering from an intestinal illness.
"It's the worst I felt in about 10 years," said Pitino, who stayed in bed all day. He skipped the team's noon shootaround. Associate coach Orlando "Tubby" Smith substituted on the pre-game radio interview.
Pitino said he feared he would miss the game. "At three o'clock, I didn't know where I was," he said. "I lost seven, eight pounds."
Kentucky's game was in general poor health, too. The Cats' shot a season- low 29.2 percent (previous low 38.8 against Florida). Jamal Mashburn and John Pelphrey combined to shoot nine of 39.
UK fell to 17-4 overall and 9-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
But Pitino said he was more disappointed in the Cats' defense.
"Defense can take you over the hump," the UK coach said. "We're capable of shooting better, but you've got to do more on the defensive end, especially on the road."
O'Neal's inside domination most exposed UK's defense. He had six dunks and contributed in fouling out Reggie Hanson and Gimel Martinez.
"We allowed him a way to close to the basket," Pitino said.
Said Hanson: "Not taking anything away from him, but a few times we didn't double down right. And we didn't turn him into the spots we wanted him."
But the front line did not shoulder all the blame, Pitino said.
"The perimeter was not pressured," the UK coach said. "One, two and three really hurt us," meaning the point guard, two-guard and small forward.
"Plus, we didn't shoot good enough to put the press on."
Kentucky took several of O'Neal's best shots in the first half and left the floor trailing only 50-46.
O'Neal scored 23 points in the half, including five dunks.
"When he got it on the post, it was a given he'd score," Mashburn said.
O'Neal also blocked or influenced several shots and got Kentucky in severe foul trouble.
UK's first two centers, Hanson and Martinez, picked up three fouls in the half. UK's other big man inside, Mashburn, looked shaky in his man-to-man confrontation with O'Neal. Mashburn hit a three-pointer to start the game. O'Neal did not go out to challenge the perimeter shot. But Mashburn missed his other six shots in the first half.
Kentucky missed 10 of its first 11 shots and a rout seemed possible.
O'Neal had three of his dunks in the first six minutes. The power display propeled LSU to a pair of eight-point leads.
A turning point came with LSU ahead 19-11. Wayne Sims, who missed the game in Lexington last month because of an alcohol-related suspension, missed a wide-open dunk attempt on a fast break.
Hanson countered with a driving dunk through O'Neal.
Fifteen turnovers in the first half kept LSU from pulling away. The Tigers committed 11 in the first eight minutes and 27 for the game.
At 19-18, O'Neal scored 10 straight points for LSU. The final points came on a post-up turnaround that gave the Tigers a 29-23 lead. Hanson picked up his third foul, with 8:36 left.
A three-pointer by Brassow at the 5:10 mark put UK ahead 35-34, the Cats' first lead since Mashburn's game-opening three-pointer.
Martinez established a 37-35 lead when he faked, then shot a short turnaround over a stunned O'Neal.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Harold Boudreaux and Hansen gave LSU a 45-39 lead.
After Mashburn opened the second half wih another three-pointer, LSU ran off nine straight points to take a 59-49 lead.
O'Neal accounted for four of the points. He dunked over Mashburn, then one-handed a feed inside like a grapefruit and turned for a basket to establish the 10-point lead. Mashburn picked up his third foul on the play, with 17:03 left.
Kentucky's hopes rose when O'Neal picked up his second and third fouls in a 24-second span and left the game. Mashburn benefited from both, muscling in a three-point play and hitting another free throw. O'Neal left with 15:52 left and LSU ahead 61-53.
UK's mounting foul trouble sunk any comeback hopes. In less than two minutes, the Cats picked up five fouls and fell behind 70-55.
The string of fouls decimated Kentucky's front court. During the span, Mashburn and Hanson picked up their fourth fouls. Martinez picked up his fourth and fifth and left at the 12:53 mark.
Martinez picked up his fourth apparently standing still while Boudreaux completed a fast-break drive into his frail body.
Pitino tried Johnathon Davis. Fourteen seconds later, Davis fouled Hansen on a layup. The three-point play put LSU ahead 68-55.
Boudreaux finished the run, intercepting a telegraphed Davis pass and racing to a dunk.
Kentucky got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
LSU extended its lead to as much as 22 down the stretch.