Date story was published: Tuesday, January 1, 1985
"What more can you say about Kenny Walker?" Joe Hall wondered aloud last night.
The question was rhetorical.
The rhetoric it inspired had to begin with this: Beat the nation's No. 11 team, Kansas, 92-89.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Walker scored a career-high 36 points. He grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.
Those are the facts, ma'am. They are very similar - make that gloriously similar - to the 32-point, 15-rebound effort Walker gave in Freedom Hall against Louisville earlier in the season.
"I don't know what it is about this place, but I wish we could take it back to Lexington with us," Walker said. "Maybe it's the soft rims. You get a lot of rolls here."
Kansas, Coach Larry Brown in particular, thought UK, which evened its record at 4-4, got a lot of calls in Freedom Hall.
The Jayhawk coach spent much of the evening arguing with the referees. Most irksome was a foul call against Kansas with five seconds to go.
The Jayhawks had fought back from an eight-point deficit (90-82) in the final 43 seconds).
UK was clinging to a 90-89 lead and trying desperately to inbounds the ball with five seconds remaining. Kansas point guard Cedric Hunter stole Bret Bearup's pass, but Kansas' Ron Kellogg was called for holding Walker's jersey on the inbounds.
Walker calmly made both free throws and Kentucky had another victory over Kansas (UK's 16th in 17 meetings) put away.
"I've got to establish some identity as a coach," Brown said of his frequent one-way conversation with the referees.
Even when Brown got an official's attention, he got no satisfaction.
"They've got answers before you get out your questions," the Kansas coach said. "The biggest thing was I saw 90-89 and we come up with the ball and they (the officials) take it away. That's too much to take."
Kellogg, whose outside shooting contributed 20 points for Kansas, admitted bumping Walker but not grabbing the UK player's jersey.
"Kenny was going for the ball and I was denying," Kellogg said. "The ref said I was grabbing him. That wasn't true."
Walker seemed to agree.
"Maybe the ref (Paul Galvan) had a bad angle," Walker said.
While the call was crucial, it was only one play in a game of shifting tides.
There were two constants. The Wildcats ruled the backboards. UK hald a 51-38 rebounding advantage.
And Walker's sustaining excellence.
"I hope he can be SEC (Southeastern Conference) player of the week," Hall said of Walker.
That wouldn't be going far enough, the beaten Jayhawks said.
"Mr. Walker did a great job," Kansas 7-footer Greg Dreiling said. "He played the best game I've ever seen an opponent play."
Does that include Oklahoma's Wayman Tisdale?
"It was as good as anything Wayman's done to us," Dreiling said.
Walker's many contributions included a four-point play that shot Kentucky into the position of having a lead to protect in the closing seconds.
With UK ahead 82-80, Kansas sought the equalizer from a perimeter jumper by Calvin Thompson.
Thompson was standing about 18 feet from the basket, well outside UK's 2-3 zone.
As Thompson, who finished with 15 points, rose for the shot out flew Walker from the zone. "He was quite a ways from me," Thompson said. I couldn't believe he got it."
Walker, who said he was only trying to distract Thompson, deflected the shot to Winston Bennett. Bennett hurled the ball downcourt to Walker who slammed it home just as Thompson grabbed him from behind.
The intentional foul rated two foul shots. Walker made both, increasing UK's lead to 86-80.
UK, which had lost three times to Top 20 teams this season, got a measure of revenge. But it wasn't easy.
The Wildcats trailed by as many as 12 in the early going and by six (76-70) with less than six minutes remaining.
It was then, however, that the Wildcats' game-long domination of the boards was decisive.
Walker's tip-in of his own miss brought UK to within four points, 76-72, with 5:41 to go.
After Danny Manning, the heralded freshman who led Kansas with 30 points, missed a shot, UK closed to within two. Walker again did the honors, grabbing a rebound off the floor and tucking it home.
After Kansas missed a one-and-one free throw chance, the Wildcats got even when Richard Madison banked home a five-footer on the fastbreak.
UK made its move to victory with less than two minutes to go. Yet another rebound, this one by Bennett, was put in to give the Cats an 82-80 lead.
Walker preserved the margin, first by blocking a shot and then by pulling off the four-point play.
The four points gave UK a seemingly safe 86-80 lead with 1:18 to go.
UK led by eight, 90-82, with only 43 seconds remaining. Then disaster almost struck.
Kansas sandwiched Cedric Hunter baskets around a UK turnover to close to within four, 90-86, with 19 seconds to go. The turnover came when a UK player stepped on the end line against the Kansas press.
When James Blackmon missed the front end of a one-and-one with 16 seconds to go, Kansas got another new life.
Hunter was fouled while shooting and made the first free throw, cutting the Kentucky lead to 90-87. He missed the second free throw and Manning got the rebound and put it home, cutting the lead to one, 90-89, with five seconds to go.
"We're going to make freshmen mistakes," Hall said, "but when we're playing as aggressively as we are, I'm not going to fault the mistakes."
Officially, the opening 20 minutes constituted the first half. Actually, the two teams played two distinct 10-minute quarters.
Kansas dominated the first 10 minutes. Kentucky ruled the the second 10.
Kansas, which brought an 8-1 record into the game, appeared headed for a rousing victory. In the structured opening minutes, the Jayhawks worked patiently and pulled steadily away.
Kellogg's outside jumpers were part of the reason. The freshman guard had nine points in the half. His 18-footer gave Kansas its largest lead, 29-17, with 9:24 remaining at the half.
Manning also played a big part in the half. He scored 10 points and seemed to control the Kansas offense with his high-post passing.
But when Manning picked up his second foul and was removed from the game with 9:10 remaining in the first half, Kentucky made its move.
When Dreiling also picked up two fouls, Kansas elected to play without its big men.
"The whole idea of our game is to go inside to our big men," Kellogg said. "We were trying to be patient without them, but we kept making mistakes."
Thompson had another word for it. "We panicked," he said.
Kentucky, with both its starting guards, Roger Harden and James Blackmon, on the bench with three fouls each, thrived.
The Cats hustled and fought and not-so-slowly worked themselves back in the game. UK outscored Kansas 17-1 in a six-minute stretch to turn the game around. This stretch, which saw Kansas commit six turnovers, pushed Kentucky to its largest lead of the half, 34-30, with 3:15 remaining.
The second half had a similar style. Kansas established its big men early. Manning's three baskets started the Jayhawks on an 8-0 spurt at the start of the half that gave Kansas a 46-40 lead.
UK hung tough, however, getting a lift from Troy McKinley and Ed Davender.
Davender, who had 20 points, and McKinley, who had 12, popped away from the outside to keep Kentucky close. McKinley hit all four of his shots in the half, including an 18-footer that knotted the score at 78-78 with 3:26 remaining.
Even in that, Walker had a hand.
''You've got to give up something," Brown said.
The Jayhawks gave up some perimeter shots in the hopes of holding down Walker.