Date story was published: Sunday, December 23, 1984
Joe Hall's patience took another beating, but for a second straight night his team did not.
It certainly didn't come easy, but Kentucky's learning-on-the-job Wildcats beat Cincinnati 66-55 to capture a school- record sixth straight UKIT championship.
Afterward, the spoils of victory, the young Wildcats' third in seven games this season, included a question about nervous stomachs.
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An interesting press room exchange began with a question directed at Hall: Coach, you've been patient this season. How long can you stay that way?
"As long as my stomach holds out," Hall said (dramatic pause), "which I don't think will be very long."
With that said, Hall noticed a former star of his, Jack Givens, in the back of the room.
''Isn't that right, Jack?" Hall asked.
''It's (Hall's stomach) is stronger than it was a few years ago," Givens said jokingly.
''I just can't yell as loud," Hall said.
No, the Wildcats did not shed all the problems of rebuilding this weekend. But UK did win its own tournament, something that has now happened 24 times in the 32-year history of the event.
"I'm not saying East Tennessee (UK's first-round victim) or Cincinnati aren't fine teams, but people don't expect us to lose to them," said Kenny Walker, who was voted the tournament's most valuable player. "We didn't have Top 20 teams in, but we needed wins more than anything. "In the tournament, we played just well enough to win."
Not as well, however, as the Wildcats did in their nip-and-tuck 71-64 loss at Louisville last week, Walker said.
Cincinnati also thought it didn't play its best. Bearcat coach Tony Yates thought the referees were responsible.
"The officials took some key players out of the game," Yates said. "In my own mind, we had the better team on the floor tonight."
Cincinnati, now 6-2, was in foul trouble almost from the beginning. Each of the Bearcats' starting front-line players had three fouls in the game's first five minutes. That kind of foul trouble took Cincinnati out of its game, Yates said.
Asked if he believed the officials were making a statement with the numerous early calls, Yates said: "I don't know what the officials were trying to do. We were in complete control. We had forced them to play (and shoot) from outside and we were outrebounding them. "After the calls, we couldn't play our game."
Hall also had disagreements with the officials. UK's second possession concluded with a technical on the Wildcat coach. Roger Harden was decked on a fast break drive to the basket. When no foul was called, Hall charged out of the coaching box to near the Cincinnati bench to argue.
''I thought they fouled Roger," Hall said. "I thought they tried to blatantly intimidate us and the referees allowed it."
Despite the foul trouble, Cincinnati led throughout much of the first half. Forward Myron Hughes, who also made the all-tournament team, scored 16 points, 14 in the first half.
Cincinnati led by as much as seven (20-13) in the first half and held a two-point edge (29-27) at halftime.
Kentucky broke the game open with a 10-point run late in the second half. The spurt opened up a 61-45 lead which UK expanded to as much as 17 (64-47) in the waning moments.
When Hall cleared his bench in the final 90 seconds, Cincinnati closed to within 11.
''I wanted to create some Christmas cheer for the subs," Hall said.
Prodigal son James Blackmon and Richard Madison helped key the second-half rush.
Blackmon, who was suspended from Friday night's game for going home to Indiana and missing a practice last week, scored all 12 of his points in the second half, including two baskets in the second-half spurt.
When he was inserted into the lineup, with 2:43 remaining in the first half, he was greeted with warm applause.
"I was proud of the welcome home," Blackmon said. "I'm proud to be a Kentucky player. I never was leaving. I just had a problem, something to sort out."
Madison, who also had 12 points, hit two jumpers from the perimeter late in the first half when UK was trying to cut into a Cincinnati lead.
The freshman forward also had eight rebounds.
The performances of Blackmon and Madison balanced the off night Ed Davender had. Davender, who lit up East Tennessee for 27 points Friday night, made only one of nine shots and had just two points last night.
"It felt a lot rougher tonight, but I'll have nights like that," the freshman said. "After I missed the first couple, I said, 'I'm not hitting like last night.' But, like in high school, I felt I should take the shot when it's there. I'm just happy we won."
Walker was joined on the all-tournament team by guard Derrick McMillan of Cincinnati, forward Myron Hughes of Cincinnati, guard Wes Stallings of East Tennessee and forward John Newman of James Madison.