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INJURY SETS OFF ALARMS IN CATS' YAWNER

Date story published: Friday, January 10, 1997

No boos at Rupp Arena last night. No competition, either.

No. 3 Kentucky could have named a final score against outmanned Canisius. As it turned out, the Cats won 68-45.

Like the booing the home team heard marked Tuesday's beating of Mississippi State, an unsettling moment distinguished this Cat rout. Derek Anderson, who led UK with 17 points, suddenly went down with 4:17 left in the second half.

When Anderson didn't get up for several minutes, a murmur of concern filled Rupp Arena. No doubt the anxiety level rose when trainer Eddie Jamiel had to help the senior from Louisville get up. As his hand massaged Anderson's lower back, Jamiel led him off the floor and into the locker room for an immediate checkup.

UK team doctor David Caborn said Anderson suffered a lower back strain and compression of a sciatic nerve.

All signs indicated Anderson will be able to play effectively when Kentucky plays at Mississippi Saturday. Point guard Anthony Epps applauded that news. "When we go on the road, we need a full deck," he said.

After an examination that included stretching and ice treatments, Caborn expected Kentucky would have its full complement of ace players. "Because the sciatic nerve responded so quickly, that makes it look good," Caborn said of Anderson's injury. UK will take a precautionary X-ray today, the doctor said. If Anderson does not feel markedly better today, UK also will do a magnetic resonance image test to check for an injured disk, Caborn said.

"It's a shame Derek got hurt," UK Coach Rick Pitino said. "I had a guy at the scorer's table for him."

Kentucky led 64-35 when Anderson crumpled to the floor on the sideline opposite the team benches. He injured himself as he made his fifth steal of the game, which equaled a career high. "When I reached down for the ball, my whole back got tight," Anderson said. "LIke a cramp. When I tried to get up, my right leg got a little queasy."

Anderson admitted the two major injuries he suffered at Ohio State - a broken hand as a freshman, a torn anterior cruciate ligament as a sophomore - flashed through his mind.

"A lot of stuff flashed," he said. "I was just worried about getting up."

Anderson relaxed after hearing the initial diagnosis.

"I'm not going to worry about it," he said. "If I stretch it out, I should be pretty well by Saturday."

Kentucky opened the game nearly flawlessly. The Cats scored on their first five possessions, and nine of their first 10. The one pointless possession came when Anderson threw a lob slightly too high for Ron Mercer to guide through the hoop.

Meanwhile, Canisius did not score until the 16:34 mark. That helped UK take its customary early double-digit lead: this time 10-0 at the 16:43 mark.

"The first five minutes, that was the best we've played offensively and defensively," Pitino said.

Kentucky worked inside with impunity early. The Cats did not take a shot outside 5 feet until Epps made at three-pointer with 15:03 left. UK finished the half with six dunks. Canisius had eight baskets.

The game grew relatively competitive when Pitino substituted. After UK established its largest early lead (18-6), three substitutes came in: Scott Padgett, Jamaal Magloire and Wayne Turner.

Canisius crept within 20-16 but got no closer because of Kentucky's press. UK gobbled up 14 turnovers in the half, three in a stretch when the Cats pushed back out to a 26-16 lead. Two pretty dunks - a lob to Mercer and a Nazr Mohammed stuff off a touch pass from Anderson - got the lead back to double digits.

Shortly thereafter, Pitino took Anderson and Mercer out. The Cats' two best players departed with 7:19 left. Neither returned until Anderson came in at the 1:49 mark. During their absence, UK outscored the Golden Griffins 9-6 en route to a 37-22 halftime lead. And UK got to rest its stars during a stretch that will see the Cats play five games in 11 days.

"I thought we were going to win the game," Pitino said. "It wasn't in jeopardy."

Kentucky jumped on Canisius at the start of the second half. The Cat lead ballooned to 25 points on two memorable plays by Anderson. On the first, he made about three mid-air corrections before he converted a lob. He fumbled the pass, then fought off a clawing defender before almost squirting a two-handed shot that found the basket.

Seconds later, Anderson stole a pass and - with tongue wagging a la Michael Jordan - drove for a dunk.

Meanwhile, Canisius went almost nine minutes without a point. After point guard Javone "Bam" Moore hit a jumper at the 16:41 mark, the Golden Griffins didn't score again until Moore rattled in a heavily contested leaner from the right side. It reduced Kentucky's lead to 62-30 with 7:57 left.

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