Date story was published: Thursday, February 14, 1985
Kentucky put it on the line last night and came away with a 51-48 victory over Alabama in a basketball game at Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats scored only one field goal in the final nine minutes but once again found a way to win. Twelve free throws in that span helped UK take sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference.
The victory improved UK's record to 14-8 overall and 9-4 in the league. Both Georgia and Florida fell to 8-5 last night. Georgia lost at the buzzer at Vanderbilt 69-68. Mississippi beat Florida 56-54.
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Alabama is to 14-8 and 6-7.
Kenny Walker, who leads the Wildcats in nearly everything, led the parade to the foul line.
Walker made 11 free throws in the game, including seven down the stretch to protect the Kentucky lead. Walker finished with 19 points.
Freshman Ed Davender made only four of nine free throws, but they were the four that mattered most. All of Davender's free-throw points came in the final 51 seconds.
A third Wildcat, James Blackmon, added the clinching free throw with four seconds remaining.
UK's offense wasn't so diversified from the field, however.
Kentucky did get a lift from Bret Bearup, who scored nine of his 11 points in the first half. It was Bearup's first double-figure game since the UKIT.
But otherwise, the outside shots wouldn't fall for the Wildcats (34.8 percent).
That development left Walker and UK ripe for Alabama's collapsing zone defense.
And still Kentucky won.
"I was proud of our team and the scrap that they showed," UK coach Joe Hall said. "They were certainly winners. You would rather have a team of winners than anything else. They were super."
UK missed its first three shots and never really warmed up. The Cats hit only a third of their first-half shots (eight of 24).
"Usually that destroys you psychologically and the rest of your game goes," Hall said. "But they hung in there and gave a super effort."
Paul Andrews, who made three bombs in the second half, hit a jumper from the top of the key with 15:55 remaining. Andrews was fouled on the play. His three-point play erased Alabama's only lead and put UK ahead 27-26.
Kentucky's lead grew to as much as seven points (35-28 with 11:20 left) on a Bearup tip-in.
Another Andrews jumper put Kentucky ahead 37-32 with 9:30 remaining.
But after Andrews' basket, the Cats couldn't buy another. As it turned out, they hardly needed one.
In the next eight minutes, all of UK's points came from Walker on the low post. The 6-foot-8 junior had only one basket. The other seven points came on free throws as Alabama's collapsing zone was called for fouls.
"I have no comment on the personal foul situation," Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson said. "But we had more field goals than Kentucky (18 to 16). We were even in rebounds (31-31). But they had 30 free throws to our 16 although we were in a zone all night."
Walker, weary of the beating he takes every game, didn't want to talk about the fouls either.
"It happens every game so I don't want to talk about it," Walker said.
Three different Tide players were called for fouls against Walker in the second-half sequence that saw UK's leader go to the foul line six straight times.
Freshman Derrick McKey was called twice. The second time was McKey's fifth. Walker made one of the free throws to give UK a 42-41 lead with 2:41 remaining.
"I felt he had as much to do with the contact as I did," McKey said of the jockeying for position.
Other Alabama players objected to the calls, too. On six straight trips, Walker was fouled while posting up.
"A couple times they called fouls they anticipated rather than real fouls," Buck Johnson said. "There's nothing you can do about that."
Maybe most telling was the comment by Tide center Bobby Lee Hurt.
"I can't say it was bad officiating," he said. "They called it tight in the second half. I just feel they should have called it that way the whole game or not at all."
UK seemed to take control on one of the few times Walker was able to get off a shot down the stretch.
With 1:45 remaining, Walker snaked for a basket and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but the rebound was deflected out to Walker.
Seconds later, Walker was fouled again on the post. He made both free throws to give UK a 46-41 lead.
Hurt's three-point play brought Alabama within two (46-44) with 59 seconds remaining.
But UK won then clinched the victory at the foul line.
Two Davender free throws with 51 seconds remaining put UK ahead 48-46. Johnson fouled out while trying to press.
Davender, whose free throws were his only points, was fouled again while dribbling up against the Alabama press. He made one to put UK ahead 49-46 with 31 seconds to go.
Davender missed the second, but Hurt bobbled the rebound and the Wildcat guard took it away.
Fouled again with 11 seconds to go, Davender made one more free throw to put UK ahead 50-46.
Terry Coner, who led Alabama with 12 points, countered twice. His basket with five seconds left brought the Tide within 50-48.
The Tide fouled Blackmon with four seconds remaining.
Alabama called two timeouts before Blackmon was finally allowed to shoot. He made one.
After weeks of deadening monotony, UK provided unexciting novelty in the first half.
The Cats had to do without a large point production from Walker, yet UK found a way to lead 18-16 at intermission.
Alabama played a 2-1-2 zone throughout the first half. The alignment kept Walker surrounded whenever he ventured into the low post area.
Walker, the SEC's leading scorer and rebounder, didn't get his first points until 7:01 remained in the half. He took a feed from Davender for a layup. That shot gave Kentucky its largest lead of the half, 15-8.
Walker's only other basket was a post-up turnaround with 3:29 remaining. Neither Walker or UK scored again.
Bearup helped pick up the slack. Bearup, who has had only two double-figure scoring games this season, had nine points at the half. The UK senior center fearlessly shot turnaround jumpers in the lane against the Tide's leapers.
As has become a regular pattern, UK did not shoot well from outside. In the entire first half, the Wildcats hit only one shot from the perimeter. Troy McKinley, who entered the game at the 17:15 mark, hit an 18-footer for UK's first basket (with 16:55 to go).
Turnovers plagued Alabama and got the Tide off to a slow start. Alabama had five turnovers in the first five minutes. Three times the Tide was called for push-offs while posting up.
As a result of the calls and poor shooting, Alabama had only one basket in the game's first nine minutes.
Kentucky's poor shooting (33.3 percent in the half) helped the Tide hang close. McKey, a 6-9 forward-center, gave Alabama a lift. He came off the bench and scored six points in the final 5:46. McKey's foul-line jumper set the halftime score.
At that point, almost three minutes remained in the half.
But, in a game that saw both teams commit a total of 17 turnovers, neither could score again.