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CATS TOY WITH, DEVOUR EAGLES IN 96-32 ROUT

Date story published: Sunday, December 17, 1995

Tony Delk must have known something. As he stood at center court moments before last night's tip-off, he yawned broadly.

You'd have needed a calculator to add up the number of yawns that followed in Rupp Arena as Kentucky tripled Morehead State's score in a 96-32 victory.

Three wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am dunks in the final minute set the final score in a contest about as competitive as Mike Tyson's knockout of Buster Mathis Jr. last night.

"We could have played great and gotten beat by 20," Morehead State Coach Dick Fick said. "As crazy as this sounds, I didn't think we played all that bad."

Kentucky (5-1) played so well that Fick asked UK Athletics Director C.M. Newton for a chance to anoint the Cats best in the nation.

"Coach Newton, get me on one of the polls," Fick said. "So I can vote them No. 1."

UK did not press in the second half and conducted its version of a victory parade barely halfway through the second half. Freshman big man Nazr Mohammed saw his first varsity action with 9:38 left. Fellow freshman Oliver Simmons (4:29) and walk-on Jason Lathrem (1:35) followed.

Still, UK -- with considerable help from Morehead -- set two defensive records. The Cats held the Eagles to 13.8 percent shooting, the worst accuracy by any UK opponent. The previous record was 24.1 percent by Notre Dame Feb. 14, 1959.

Morehead also scored the fewest points by a UK opponent in Rupp Arena or since the adoption of a shot clock in the mid-1980s. Mississippi State (Jan. 31, 1987) and Southwest Texas State (Dec. 10, 1991) shared the previous record of 36 points.

UK Coach Rick Pitino conceded the difference in talent. "We had so much more talent at every position," he said.

But 13.8 percent?

"I don't care who you're playing," he said. "The stats we got tonight are very difficult (to achieve)."

Antoine Walker, who led UK with 22 points and 10 rebounds, summed it up well. "It's tough to hold any team to 14 percent," he said. "Even if the other team was a Division III opponent, it would be tough."

Pitino lauded the Cats' defensive concentration. Any fear of losing disappeared shortly after tip-off. "Out of (final) exams, this was the type of game we were hoping for," Pitino said. "We got our wish."

The Cats also reaped a school-record 16 blocked shots.

Morehead scored the game's first basket and appeared intent on keeping the score competitive for a while. Rather than play its normal up-tempo game, the Eagles tried to milk the clock. MSU spread the floor and tried to use its quickness to drive to the basket.

Two minutes into the game, Fick took off his suit jacket. That seemed to suggest he was ready to compete.

When Morehead called time with 10:42 left, the Eagles trailed 27-5. Fick had loosened his tie to his sternum. He unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt. He tugged on his suspenders. In short, he looked like he was coming off a bender.

Kentucky had scored seven points in the preceding 22 seconds, stealing back-to-back inbounds passes for scores in the span. UK also converted an offensive rebound on a missed free throw into points for the third time in the first nine minutes.

The rest of the half served to illustrate how a game between Morehead and UK's junior varsity team would have been more interesting. Among the lowlights:

Morehead bricked a layup that did not even touch the rim.

Morehead's Chris Stone posted up, then had his shot blocked by Walker. Walker did not jump for the block. He merely stood still and let Stone and the ball collide with his chest. That sort of play hadn't been seen at a UK game since Deron Feldhaus boldly jumped into Shaquille O'Neal's chest at LSU.

UK's defense and Morehead's inept shot selection contributed to an eye- catching statistic. Morehead made only four of 30 first-half shots (13.3 percent), a stat that drew derisive laughter from the Rupp crowd when announced at intermission. That evoked memories of UK's three-for-33 second half against Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four, an appropriate thought in a game the school dedicated to its storied basketball history. Fifty-eight former players were introduced at halftime as part of a fund-raising promotion for the UK Basketball Museum.

During a scramble for a loose ball along the sideline, forward Mike Scrogham got himself entangled in the bunting on press row. As he tried to catch up to the action, Scrogham's legs got caught in the bunting, and he fell.

Even the referees had a moment of farce. When Allen Edwards missed his first free throw, the ball bounced harmlessly off the rim as the players awaited his second attempt. One problem: the refs failed to realize Edwards was shooting a one-and-one. The ball was live. After a conference, the ball was awarded to UK on the alternate possession.

The teams were required to play the second half. They lived up to the commitment.

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