Date story was published: Friday, March 1, 1985
Kentucky's last was certainly not its least.
In fact, the 92-67 destruction of hated Tennessee was UK's best.
Until last night, when Kentucky fans bade farewell to seniors Troy McKinley and Bret Bearup in their final regular-season game at Rupp Arena, the Wildcats' most lopsided victory was by 17 points (75-58) at Rupp over Vanderbilt in January.
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UK had Tennessee down by 18 in the first half.
It only got better (if you were a Kentucky fan) after halftime.
How bad a night did Tennessee have? The Volunteers were annoyed even before the game. The pregame send-off to the two seniors, complete with a recording of "My Old Kentucky Home" by former Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler, got Tennessee's goat.
''I had no idea who Happy Chandler was and I didn't really care," Tennessee guard Michael Brooks said of the ceremony. "If that's what they do before games, more power to them. To me, it just held up the game (by more than 15 minutes)."
If the Vols had known what was coming, they might have asked Chandler for an encore.
Kentucky did nearly everything well in raising its record to 16-10 overall and 11-6 in the Southeastern Conference. (On Saturday's final day of the regular season, if UK wins at LSU and Tennessee beats Georgia in Knoxville, the Cats will finish in a three-way tie for first place.) UK shot well. Its 55.2 percentage was the team's second best (55.4 at Georgia is tops).
The Cats defended well, holding Brooks to 17, half of what he got in UT's victory over Kentucky in Knoxville. "They helped out a lot on me tonight," Brooks said. "When we ran 'iso' (one-on-one), I'd go to the basket and there was somebody there."
Last, but not least, the Cats read well.
After the Vols' 81-65 victory over UK in Knoxville (the Cats' worst defeat this season), several Tennessee players were quoted as saying they had ''wanted it more."
One Chattanooga newspaper story with that theme included the following unquoted observation: "Tennessee has pride. Kentucky has excuses."
Those stories, along with a Tennessee T-shirt, found their way to the bulletin board in UK's locker room before last night's game.
''I was offended by that kind of garbage," Bearup said. "Kenny (Walker) and I stared at that for five solid minutes."
Revenge was sweet, especially for Walker.
It was the newspaper quotes that angered Walker. He took it out on Tennessee, scoring 33 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in his most animated performance of the season.
''The bottom line was we wanted it more than they did," a sly Walker said. ''And I feel happy in saying that."
Early in the game, Walker let it be known his hustling style would be turned up a notch. At the 16:34 mark of the first half, Walker posted up and drew a foul from Kirk Naler, his nemesis in Knoxville. After the whistle, Walker said something to Naler.
''He was telling me to stay off him," Naler said. "He tried to intimidate me early."
Later in the half, when Ed Davender dribbled through a Tennessee press for a layup, Walker ran to his roommate to slap palms.
Walker had three dunks and tried to block Tennessee shots late in the game with UK up by 25 points.
''This was the most fun I've had by far this year," Walker said. "I've never been on a natural high like this. My feelings took over from my physical reactions."
Brooks discounted the power of the printed word, saying he believed the posted quotes had little effect on the game.
''Two words tell the story: Kenny Walker," Brook said. "He just dominated the inside game. He did the job both on offense and defense."
UK matched its largest point total of the season. (The Cats beat Kansas 92-89.)
A highlight film could have been made of the Cats' second half.
Such a film would have to include the following:
Walker's mid-air catch of a feed, twist and layup before touching the floor. That defiance of gravity boosted UK's lead to 77-53 with 7:57 remaining.
Davender's layup off a behind-the-back pass from Roger Harden, who had 12 assists. On the play, Harden dribbled to his left at the top of the key and spotted Davender and fed him with the pass.
Walker's personal revenge against Naler, Part II. With 14:56 remaining in the game, Walker scored a post-up basket over Naler that left the Tennessee forward lying helpless on the floor. The shot raised UK's lead to 61-36. After it, Walker pumped his right arm several times as he ran downcourt.
The UK lead grew to as many as 26 (90-64).
''We never got into the game," said Don DeVoe, who suffered his second worst loss in his seven seasons as Tennessee coach. "They outplayed us and outhustled us. They kept us from getting second shots and this was a very important factor in the game."
The loss dropped Tennessee to 16-13 overall and 7-10 in the SEC, assuring only the second in-league losing record for the Vols since 1963.
Kentucky jumped on Tennessee early and often in the first half. So dominant was UK that the Wildcats gained a 49-36 lead at intermission.
The Cats scored the game's first six points and never looked back.
UK's lead reached double figures less than eight minutes into the game (17-7 at the 12:42 mark).
When Bearup hit a turnaround jumper at the 5:44 mark, UK had its largest lead of the half (35-17).
Brooks finally got going in the late stages of the half. The senior guard scored 11 points, nine of which came in the final 6:52.
Walker had eight of UK's first 10 points and had double figures at the 16:29 mark.
And the support Walker has been looking for all season was there in the first half.
Bearup, going out in style at Rupp Arena, shot without fear over the smaller Volunteers. He had 12 points at the half and was already within one point of his career high (13 vs. Indiana earlier this season).
Bearup finished wih 13 points.
McKinley, the other departing Wildcat senior, got off slowly in his first start of his college career. When McKinley went out for a breather at the 12:42 mark, he had taken only one shot (he missed from the corner).
McKinley finished with six points.
The first half also saw the return of Richard Madison. The freshman forward had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery on Feb. 15 and had missed six straight games.
The rustiness showed. Madison only played five minutes and missed badly on the only two shots he attempted. He didn't play thereafter.
Leroy Byrd played the final 28 seconds. "Baby Magic" set the final score, driving to the hoop for a layup and his first points of the season.