Date story was published: Monday, January 28, 1985
Just when you thought Kentucky had run out of ways to lose here, the Wildcats ran into another:
Michael Brooks, who would have departed Tennessee after last season had he not been academically ineligible, scored a career-high 34 points yesterday to lead the Volunteers to yet another victory over Kentucky here.
The score was 81-65, the worst whipping the Wildcats have had this season.
The method was Brooks from the top of the key, Brooks from the side, Brooks on the drive. (And, not so coincidentally, a Volunteer defense that steadily tightened its grip - almost literally - on UK's Kenny Walker, who scored 23 points.)
The result was UK's third straight loss this season and the Cats' 12th loss in their last 13 trips to the Stokely Athletics Center.
"I just wish he would have graduated last year," UK center Bret Bearup said of Brooks. "We should get on his tutors."
As for Kentucky's tutoring, it had been sound.
"No one respects Brooks' shooting more than me," Kentucky coach Joe Hall said. "Unfortunately, our defense doesn't share that respect. I've never been able to get a guard up on him at 20 to 23 feet. Normally, guards play off him waiting for him to make a move to get closer for a shot. He shoots from there."
As good as Brooks was, the fifth-year senior's scoring was only the most glaring example of a Tennessee offense that caused Hall to issue a blanket indictment against the UK defense.
"Prior to (the Mississippi State game), defense had been carrying us," Hall said. Defense has been burying Kentucky lately, he indicated.
"We did not pull out of that," the UK coach said. "We went a little deeper."
UK's shooting, hardly a bright spot this year anyway, also went in reverse. Coming off a season-high 55.4 percent night at Georgia, UK dipped to 44.6 percent yesterday.
In the second half, when Tennessee pulled away to a deceptively wide margin of victory, the Wildcats made only a third of their 33 shots. The 33.3 percent accuracy was UK's worst of any half this season.
With better shooting, Kentucky might have won. Tennessee only led by three (59-56) at the 11:36 mark. But UK missed its next eight shots, went scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes and got itself into a familiar position here: helpless.
Tennessee scored 10 straight points in that span to take a 69-56 lead with about six minutes remaining. At that point, the smaller but quicker Vols could milk the shot clock to win easily.
"We've just gotten ourselves in a position where we don't have any shooters," Hall said when asked about UK's self-destruction. "We got good enough shots. The shots in the second half were junior-high shots. We just didn't make them."
During the decisive spurt, both Winston Bennett and Robert Lock missed after grabbing rebounds under the basket. The rest of UK's misses were all jumpers from inside 15 feet.
After having had Brooks shoot UK out of its man-to-man in the first half, Tennessee faced zones in the second. Against that alignment, the Vols got four baskets off rebounds in a six-minute span. In the entire first half, Tennessee got only one rebound basket.
Kirk Naler's left hook off a rebound began Tennessee's 10-0 run and gave the Vols a 61-56 edge.
When Brooks hit from the key, Tennessee was up seven. Brooks, for one, said that was the game.
"When we went up seven, I thought they were through," Brooks said. "They were trying every time to get the ball to Walker. The other four guys were just standing around."
Or falling down, as freshman Richard Madison did, freeing Rob Jones for a dunk that pushed Tennessee ahead 69-56 with 7:43 remaining.
Brooks did most of his damage in a 24-point first half. Until yesterday, only Kansas' Danny Manning (30 points) and Florida's Andrew Moten (26) had scored that much in a game against Kentucky this season.
"We couldn't stop Michael Brooks in any defense we played," Bearup said.
UK began in a man-to-man defense. James Blackmon had the thankless task of covering Brooks.
Later in the half, freshman Ed Davender tried Brooks with similar results.
The Cats also played a "point drop" defense with Bennett or Madison stationed at the top of the key, the spot favored by Brooks.
"The 'point drop' was specifically for him," Bearup said. "It was just a tremendous shooting performance."
UK also played some 3-2 zone.
Brooks shot up all three, making 11 of 14 shots in the half. He was 14 of 21 for the game.
"Maybe those guys didn't know about me," Brooks said of his being open for shots so often. Brooks hadn't played against a UK team since Feb. 27, 1983. "I was surprised. Maybe if a guy did that to me, I'd think he couldn't go on forever. But it did."
UK exploited its height advantage inside repeatedly in the first half. The Cats got five baskets off rebounds in the first 20 minutes. Madison and Lock each grabbed missed free throws and scored baskets.
"Oh, God, this is about the most frustrating time of my life," said Bearup, who, because of foul trouble, played just 20 minutes. "This was the game I wanted to play the most because I had little (6-foot-4) Fred Jenkins on me."
UK's front line scored the team's first 13 points. That kind of production pushed the Cats ahead 8-1 in the first three minutes.
Tennessee, meanwhile, was limited to shooting from the perimeter, where basketball wisdom suggests a team can't win.
But at Stokely against Kentucky, no conventional rules apparently apply.
"We think we've already won before the game starts," Brooks said.
He didn't need a tutor to know that.