Date story was published: Sunday, February 3, 1985
AUBURN, Ala. - As reliable as the groundhog, who stuck his head out of his hole yesterday, controversy returned to the Kentucky-Auburn game.
How clouded was UK's 49-47 overtime victory yesterday afternoon? Questions about it may continue for six more weeks.
What is known is that Kenny Walker sank two free throws with five seconds remaining in overtime to give the Wildcats their 11th victory in 19 games and improve their Southeastern Conference record to 6-4. Auburn fell to 12-7 overall and 4-6 in the SEC.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Much happened before and more than you might think possible occurred after the clutch free throws.
With only five seconds left, Auburn guard Gerald White had time to race downcourt and put up a jumper from inside the foul line. It was short, but the Tigers got off three more shots, including a baseline jumper, before the buzzer mercifully sounded.
By that time, UK coach Joe Hall had strode to the timekeeper. Once there, Hall pointed his finger at the man, a local high school principal named John Mills, complaining that the buzzer hadn't sounded until a couple of seconds after time had run out.
"I didn't use profanity," Hall said of the heated discussion. "But I was upset they didn't sound the horn."
Considering the controversies that seemed drawn to this game, the finish was fitting.
Remember three years ago when Auburn center Charles Barkley was ejected in the game's first three minutes? How about the overtime basket by Derrick Hord that was disallowed because of a timing malfunction two years ago?
Hall certainly remembered.
"Everything went through my mind," a relieved Hall said. "It's happened here before."
Immediately after the game, Mills said: "I don't know what happened."
John Lewandowski, the Auburn assistant sports information director, said that the automatic timer that sounds the horn must be reset after each blast.
"He just forget to reset it after regulation," Lewandowski said of Mills.
Walker's free throws were the only points scored in the final 2:22 of overtime.
Auburn called a timeout with five seconds to go to let Walker think.
During the break, UK equipment manager Bill Keightly stuck a bobby pin in Walker's shorts.
"I didn't know what it was," Walker said of the pin. "He said it would bring me luck."
Keightly said he found two bobby pins in a hallway of Memorial Coliseum before the game.
"I've never done anything like that before," Keightly said. "When you get as old as I am, you've got to believe in something."
Walker's free throws gave him 15 points in the game, high for the game. They also gave UK its fifth last-minute victory over Auburn this decade. Walker beat the Tigers on a last-second shot in last year's Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game.
Hord (1983), Kyle Macy (1980) and Dirk Minniefield (1980) also have broken Auburn's heart.
"This is my most discouraging loss, without a doubt," Auburn coach Sonny Smith said. "Unless we're up 15, there's always a cloud of controversy around this game. It's a shame it's not decided by the kids."
Each team had opportunities to build a lead in overtime.
An Auburn basket was disallowed in overtime when Chuck Person's jumper hit the post supporting the 45-second clock over the backboard before dropping in.
The play sparked another controversy. Auburn claimed the shot hit only the top of the backboard and should have counted.
UK said it hit the brace.
Auburn's Frank Ford missed the first shot of a one-and-one free throw with 1:24 remaining.
UK's Ed Davender had the same misfortune with 1:04 to go.
Kentucky had two chances to win it in the final 18 seconds of regulation.
Davender missed a 15-footer with Chris Morris leaping into his field of vision. That shot followed a UK timeout with 27 seconds to go.
Bret Bearup rebounded the miss and UK called another timeout with 12 seconds to go.
Given a second chance, the Cats looked inside for Walker. Roger Harden threw inside, but Walker appeared to be held and couldn't get to the pass.
"He pulled me down," Walker said of Person's defense, "just pulled me out of the play."
Morris retrieved the loose ball and dribbled out on the break. Harden tipped away Morris' fast-break pass. In the scramble for the ball, Harden was called for holding Morris just before the buzzer.
Because it was only UK's sixth team foul, no free throws were shot and the teams went into overtime.
"If Joe's mad at the timer, so am I," Smith said. "We should have had three seconds on the clock."
Hall said he thought Harden hadn't committed a foul.
Kentucky had the first chance to break the 43-43 deadlock. But the Cats were a little too patient. As in the LSU game, Harden had to let fly from 25 feet with the shot clock down to one second.
This time he missed.
At the other end, Auburn freshman Morris shot from the baseline in traffic. Winston Bennett strong-armed the rebound.
Both teams shot poorly. In the second half, Kentucky made just four of its first 12 shots. Auburn connected on six of 15.
Rebounding, an Auburn strength all season, helped the Tigers open up a 35-30 lead. Auburn made four baskets off rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Guard Frank Ford's rebound basket put Auburn up 29-28 with 14:21 remaining.
A flying left-hand-only jam by Morris raised the lead to three, 33-30, at the 11:53 mark.
Another Morris basket off a rebound gave Auburn its largest lead, 35-30, with 10:20 to go.
Richard Madison answered for Kentucky, throwing in three straight bank shots from 15 feet to get Kentucky back into it.
"That was one of the biggest keys," Smith said of Madison's shots. "They found a seam." Madison finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Madison had missed two shots before he started connecting. He continued to shoot after a brief on-court exchange with Walker.
"He was rushing a little," Walker said. "I told him, 'They're leaving you open. Keep shooting, keep shooting.' "
Madison had to leave the game with 4:58 remaining because of a minor knee sprain and didn't return until the overtime.
From there, the teams struggled until the final seconds.
A combination of Kentucky defense and poor Auburn shot selection was responsible for the Cats' 22-20 halftime lead.
UK alternated its defenses, playing mostly man-to-man, but also using 2-3 and matchup zones.
Auburn helped the Kentucky defense by shooting quickly and poorly in the opening 20 minutes. Auburn made just 10 of 30 shots in the half (33.3 percent).
The Tigers got only one basket in a span of nearly 10 minutes in the first half. During that time, UK outscored Auburn 11-2.
That string erased an early 8-3 Auburn lead and put the Cats ahead 14-10.
UK, which displayed the same patient offense that produced Thursday's 53-43 victory over Louisiana State, nursed that lead to the locker room.
Kentucky needed several minutes to get into its patient mode. The Cats turned the ball over four times in the first three minutes, and Auburn converted three of the mistakes into fast-break baskets.
Person, who finished the half with 11 points, hit a baseline jumper off a break to give Auburn its 8-3 lead.
Thereafter, UK cut down the turnovers, finishing the half with just seven.
Without the fast-break opportunities, Auburn's half-court offense dissolved into confusion.
Several times Person forced jumpers over the close guarding of UK's Bennett. Freshman center Jeff Moore was also quick on the trigger.
After Person's baseline shot at the 16:59 mark, the Tigers got only two more points until reserve Carey Holland rebounded a miss and put it home.
Auburn made just one of 10 shots during the span, a post-up shot by Person.
Kentucky, meanwhile, looked for Walker inside and hit the boards.
Walker had only two points during UK's 11-2 run. The Cats got two jumpers from Troy McKinley to soften the Auburn zone.
Bearup rebounded his own miss and completed a three-point play that tied the score at 10-10 at the 12:39 mark.
UK's fast break yielded layups by Madison and Walker that put the Cats ahead 14-10 with 10:06 to go.
Despite its patience, UK did not shoot much better than Auburn. The Cats made nine of 23 shots in the half (39 percent).