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CATS DROP VOLUN-TEARJERKER

Date story published: Wednesday, January 13, 1999

In a high-intensity game seemingly destined to remain undecided until the final seconds, Tennessee validated itself as an equal of mighty Kentucky last night.

The Vols survived three UK shots in the final seconds to win 47-46.

That both teams scored season-low points testified to the high-quality defense played baseline to baseline.

Fittingly, Tennessee, which became the first team to outrebound Kentucky this season, got the game-winner on a second-chance shot .

With UK ahead 46-44, Brandon Wharton missed a three-pointer from the right side. But freshman Vincent Yarbrough grabbed the long rebound and fed Wharton for another three-point shot from the left side. Wharton, who led all scorers with 14 points, hit the second trey to put Tennessee ahead 47-46 with 1:08 left.

Kentucky, which lost for the first time at home this season, got its own second chance. C.J. Black, an 87.2 percent free-throw shooter, missed a one-and-one with 30.6 seconds left.

But UK did not capitalize. Heshimu Evans, whose slump continued in a 1-for-9 shooting night, missed a trey from the left corner.

Kentucky ( 14-4 , 3-1 Southeastern Conference) got two more shots after a timeout to map strategy. Wayne Turner missed a heavily contested driving leaner. Mike Bradley then came up short on a rushed, desperation putback at the buzzer.

Tennessee, which aspired to justify its lofty pre-season hype, improved to 11-4 overall and tied UK for first place in the SEC Eastern Division at 3-1.

Kentucky and Tennessee came into the game off strong offensive performances. But in-your-face defenses made both teams struggle mightily to get the ball in the basket in the first half.

Kentucky, which made a season-high 14 three-pointers at Vandy on Saturday, missed all six of its first-half three-point shots. In fact, the Cats made only one shot outside the paint against UT's man-to-man defense in the first half: a 15-footer by Turner.

Only a strong scoring effort by Jamaal Magloire enabled UK to equal its season low for a first half: 21 points.

Tennessee, which made 22 of 45 three-point shots last week, didn't light up the scoreboard either. Facing UK's determined man-to-man defense, the Vols made only six of their first 30 shots.

But winning the rebounding battle 26-18 allowed Tennessee to take a 25-21 lead into intermission.

Known chiefly as a defensive presence, Magloire, who finished with 10 points, was startlingly effective on offense early in the game. He opened the game by turning to the baseline and hitting a left-handed hook shot. Two minutes later, he turned to the right and powered up for a three-point play. Another two minutes later, Magloire fed a high-low pass to Bradley for a layup.

UK led by as much as six points early. But a disquieting factor diluted the power game that gave UK its lead: Tennessee rebounded ferociously from the start. The Vols got five shots on their first possession and outrebounded UK 17-7 in the first nine minutes.

With UK trailing 13-10, Magloire seemed to ignite a Kentucky breakout. In what seemed an unprecedented display of offensive prowess for the big man from Canada, he drove around Torrey Harris and rose for a driving dunk. The crowd exploded in noise but got only four more baskets the rest of the half (one on a Tennessee goaltend).

That Tennessee inched ahead by 25-21 at halftime was not a good sign for Kentucky. The Vols had been undefeated (9-0) in games they led at the break.

Rebounding helped keep Tennessee ahead midway through the second half. Yarbrough, who signed with UT over UK, gave the Vols their largest lead, 33-26, on a putback.

When Kentucky closed within 33-30, Isiah Victor's tip-in kept the Cats at bay.

Kentucky's poor shooting and Tennessee's defense prevented a turning point. The noise reached ear-piercing intensity when Saul Smith hit UK's first three-pointer. It came after eight straight misses and reduced Tennessee's lead to 35-33 with 11:46 left.

If it was a turning point, it turned s-l-o-w-l-y.

UK did not score again for more than two minutes. The next basket, Turner's driving fast-break layup, tied it at 35-35 with 9:42 left.

Tennessee regained the lead on Aaron Green's first basket, a three-pointer, with 6:20 left.

Turner's transition layup and two Evans free throws put Kentucky ahead 39-38 with 4:40 left. It marked the Cats' first lead since the 5:52 mark of the first half.

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