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LOSS LEAVES WILDCATS IN LOGJAM ATOP SEC

Date story was published: Sunday, January 20, 1985

Two fouls and two baskets proved too damaging.

Together, they were a big reason Florida defeated Kentucky 67-55 yesterday to make a mid-week warning from Joe Hall seem prophetic.

On Thursday, the Kentucky coach told fans and foes alike that his first- place team faced a rocky road ahead.

Yesterday, a pothole in the form of Florida knocked the Wildcats into a traffic jam atop the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky is in a four-way tie for first with Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi State at 4-2.

The two fouls were called against Kenny Walker in the game's first three minutes and forced Hall to sit UK's meal ticket down for more than 10 first- half minutes. Predictably, without Walker, the Wildcats fell behind.

With Walker and his three in-your-face slams to start the second half, UK made its move.

But, after coming within a missed jumper of taking the lead - alas, the shot was taken by Walker - Florida countered.

Two baskets by Andrew Moten, part of the slippery point guard's 26-point barrage, began a 10-2 run that moved the Gators ahead by nine.

Only Kansas freshman Danny Manning, who had 30, has scored more against the Wildcats this season. None of Manning's points, however, were as painful as Moten's two baskets, both made despite the screams of 23,325 at Rupp Arena.

The first was a 15-footer, taken in the teeth of UK's 2-3 zone, and pushed Florida ahead 36-33. The second was a fast-break layup set up by a Winston Bennett airball that, if you'll pardon the expression, seemed to take the air out of the Kentucky comeback.

From there it was all downhill. Even Walker's 22 second-half points weren't enough to offset another poor Kentucky shooting performance this day. Nor could they prevent only the third double-digit defeat UK has suffered in Rupp Arena. (Alabama beat the Cats 78-64 in 1980 and Tennessee topped UK 66-55 in 1979.)

Afterward, in the polite manner that is his style, Walker asked for help. True, he had scored 26, but he again paid the price against the Gators' collapsing zone and help-out man-to-man defenses.

"Maybe the outside shooting will help when it comes around," Walker said.

Yesterday, the Cats made just 40.7 percent of their shots, marking the 13th time in 15 games that UK has hit less than half its field-goal attempts.

"I don't know when (the shooting will improve)," Walker said. "I hope it's the next game. The sooner the better."

Asked if the pounding he has taken from opponents has grown worse, Walker said: "You see it. You tell me. What do you think?

"I'm feeling the effects of it right now. I don't know what I've done to have to accept the bumping."

What he's done, of course, is lead the SEC in scoring and the Wildcats in nearly everything else. That was no secret.

"We came here to stop their inside game," Moten said. "When Kenny Walker went out, they had no inside game. We were going to let them shoot from outside anyway."

The strategy was sound. The four Kentucky guards who played made just four of 21 shots. With Walker out, the strategy was even more sound.

"He's one of the best in the country in the paint," said Randall Leath, who tried to cover Walker in Florida's man-to-man. "I think they got a little confused about where they wanted to go when he went out."

Walker got his first foul with 17:31 remaining in the half for holding Gator center Eugene McDowell. "I kind of brushed Eugene," Walker said, "but they called it a hold."

Twenty-two seconds later, Walker got a second. This time for setting an illegal pick. "I picked for Winston, and I don't think I moved," Walker said.

Neither could teammate Bret Bearup, who was more blunt in his criticism.

"I can't believe they called them," the Wildcat center said. "Those were two of the skimpiest touch fouls I've ever seen. And then there was me and McDowell wrestling with each other (and no call)."

Whatever their merit, the two quick fouls prompted Hall to remove Walker at the 17:09 mark. "He got the two fouls so quickly that I didn't want him to get his third," the UK coach said. Walker did not return until 6:30 remained in the half.

In that time, UK stayed close. If the Cats shot poorly, the quick-on-the- trigger Gators were even worse. Florida made just 41.2 percent of its first-half shots.

"I thought they played really well when I was out," Walker said of his teammates. "We were only down seven at the half (30-23). I thought we had a chance."

When Florida missed seven of its first nine shots after intermission and Walker threw down his three dunks, the Cats appeared to have more than a chance. The first two slams were part of back-to-back three-point plays that cut a nine-point deficit to 34-31.

After a Gator turnover, Harden lobbed to Walker for yet another dunk that made it a one-point game with more than 15 minutes remaining.

"Sure it was frightening the way Walker started throwing down dunks and converting three-point plays," Florida coach Norm Sloan said. "That's just what we didn't want to happen."

UK's chance to grab its first lead since the game's first basket (by Walker) was set up when Florida missed two shots inside.

But, McDowell rushed out and forced Walker to alter his foul-line jumper. It missed, as did UK's next four shots and eight of the next nine. Moten, meanwhile, threw in his two baskets and Florida was out of danger.

"The shots we took were not bad shots," Hall said. "Every shot a guard took was one I feel he could have made. Our guards have been consistent, but in the wrong way."

The loss dropped Kentucky to 9-6 overall. Florida improved to 11-3.

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