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CATS FILL 'ER UP AS SAN JOSE RUNS DRY

Date story published: Friday, March 15, 1996

DALLAS -- Step by step, the unfolding of a David-beats-Goliath upset in the NCAA Tournament goes something like this:

A. It's only a matter of time until Goliath stomps David (tip-off).

B. It's still only a matter of time (midway through the first half).

C. David has hung in there longer than expected (halftime).

D. Goliath better get going (midway through the second half).

E. Heck, David can pull it off (final five minutes).

F. David beats Goliath (final buzzer).

Surprisingly, the Kentucky-San Jose State game passed through steps A, B and C in the Midwest Region first round yesterday. But when the chances of an unprecedented upset of a No. 1 seed by a 16th seed improved from impossible to extremely unlikely, the Cats arose.

Kentucky demolished San Jose State 110-72 on the strength of the highest- scoring second half of the season.

"The thing I'm most proud of with this team is we never panicked," UK Coach Rick Pitino said. "We were concerned. But we never panicked."

Antoine Walker -- benched for much of the second half against Mississippi State four days earlier --sparked Kentucky's 63-point second half. He equaled a career high with six assists, none more spectacular than a blind over-his- head flip that produced a Walter McCarty dunk.

"I knew he was going to pass," McCarty said. "I didn't know what manner."

"I just play basketball on instinct," Walker said.

Walker stole the ensuing inbounds pass. Before stepping out of bounds, he saved the possession with a behind-the-back flip to freshman Ron Mercer. Mercer, in turn, fed Walker for a dunk.

That 11-second starburst gave Kentucky a 76-57 lead and prompted a San Jose State timeout with 9:56 left.

"We got demoralized, and we kind of stood around watching that wonderful passing and dunking and running and shooting," San Jose State Coach Stan Morrison said. "And the dam broke."

Kentucky almost had as many dunks (eight) in the second half as San Jose State had baskets (10).

"It's intimidating," said Rich Taylor, whose buzzer-beater in the Big West Conference Tournament sent San Jose State to Dallas. "Dunk after dunk, it's intimidating."

UK also set a school record with 35 assists (two more than in last year's NCAA Tournament opener against Mount St. Mary's).

Kentucky (29-2) advanced to a second-round game Saturday against Virginia Tech (23-5). Tip-off will be about 4:50 p.m. EST.

San Jose State (13-17) avoided Kentucky's patented quick knockout. Led by Michigan transfer Olivier Saint-Jean, the Spartans took the action to UK. Saint-Jean drove for baskets on San Jose's first three possessions.

After shooting only 44.5 percent this season, San Jose State made a whopping 60.7 percent of its first-half shots. The Spartans weren't expected to be dangerous from three-point range but made four of six shots from beyond the arc in the first half.

So much for Kentucky's resolve to play better defense after allowing three opponents in the Southeastern Conference to make 28 of 52 three-point shots.

"We don't play them two times a year so I just know them from TV, but I know they weren't playing the way they usually play," San Jose point guard Tito Addison said. "I thought maybe we're going to have an upset here. They were talking among each other and saying things to each other they probably shouldn't have been saying."

"I think they expected us to flop over," teammate Sam Allen said.

Kentucky did not take the lead for good until the 3:16 mark of the first half when Walker posted up for a basket.

"Each timeout, I told the guys, 'Don't worry. The run will come. The run will come. Just keep playing hard,' " Pitino said. "I kept saying to myself as I was saying that, 'When is this run going to come?' "

San Jose State trailed only 47-41 at halftime. But the game was over.

"We were happy," Allen said, "but we were really, really tired. In our league, teams don't press like Kentucky. It's not a 94-foot game. They're like a little rat race."

Kentucky's superior conditioning showed early in the second half. As Saint- Jean trotted to retrieve a loose ball, Epps beat him to the ball with a diving effort. The UK point guard flipped the ball back into the open court, where Mercer scooped it up for a dunk.

"He was just going nonchalant," Epps said. "I thought if I make a sprint, I can get it. I was just trying to throw it back. I guess Ron had faith in me."

By game's end, San Jose State just wanted out of Reunion Arena.

"I had an easy dunk at the end of the game, but I couldn't get up (to the rim)," Taylor said. "I looked up at the scoreboard and saw 11 seconds left and said, 'Thank God.' I fouled someone just to foul out and get off the floor."

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