Date story was published: Monday, February 25, 1985
Midway through the first half of Georgia's 79-77 victory over Kentucky, one courtside observer remarked:
"This is more like a basketball game than anything we've seen here in the last three weeks. None of that 6-6 stuff."
Nobody was milking the shot clock yesterday at Rupp Arena.
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Georgia and Kentucky milked some adrenal glands, though, going at each other from tip-off to final buzzer as if first place in the Southeastern Conference was on the line.
Which, of course, it was.
The victory, Georgia's first in Lexington since 1923, was not apparent until Horace McMillan tipped in a missed free throw with 17 seconds remaining. It was not secured until McMillan cradled a deflected half-court inbounds pass in the last two seconds to elevate Georgia into a first-place tie with Louisiana State at 11-5.
Kentucky, for the first time in a single season a three-time loser at Rupp, dropped back to 10-6.
Afterward, each side licked its wounds.
"If I don't look enthusiastic about the win, it's because I'm physically tired," said a relieved Georgia coach Hugh Durham. "This wasn't a place for the weak and weary."
Kentucky was certainly not weak. Weary was another matter.
Kenny Walker and Ed Davender each played all 40 minutes. Roger Harden was in for 37 minutes.
It was damn-the-torpedoes time.
"It's a real tough loss for us to take," UK coach Joe Hall told reporters. "Everybody in this room knows how tough a loss this was."
In such an emotional game, one in which neither side seemed to hold anything back, refereeing was a difficult and thankless task. The men in the striped shirts - Paul Galvan, Sonny Holmes and Allie Prescott - were not thanked.
Galvan got an earful from Durham as he tried to walk off the court at halftime. Durham was upset because his big man, freshman Cedric Henderson, had picked up three fouls in the first five minutes and had neither a point nor a rebound to show for his efforts.
"What was frustrating was we'd go over their backs and tip it in and there would be a foul," Durham said. "Then (Robert) Lock goes over our backs, tips it in and there's no foul.
"I wanted him to clarify how it was going to be called. I asked him to explain so I wouldn't get on him too bad in the second half."
The Kentucky side was not pleased with the officiating, either. When Hall took his turn in the interview room, he too turned coy.
Without benefit of a question about the officiating, Hall called upon Brad Davis, UK's assistant sports information director.
"Hey, Brad, what was Holmes' foul ratio?" the Wildcat coach asked.
Told it was 15 calls against UK, three against Georgia, Hall said: "I just wondered."
It was left to Bret Bearup, the most candid of the Wildcats, to express the unvarnished truth as UK apparently saw it.
Specifically, Bearup, one of two Kentucky players to foul out, was asked about a second-half call that sparked some among the crowd of 23,230 to litter the court with ice and paper - one object hitting Harden in the face.
With UK clinging uneasily to a 55-47 lead, Walker had grabbed a defensive rebound. Two Georgia players converged on Walker and contested the outlet pass. Although Walker swung his arms back and forth several times, he didn't clear a path for the pass.
After a few suspenseful seconds, the whistle blew. The crowd anticipated a Georgia foul. Instead, it got a walking call on Walker.
The debris followed, prompting Hall to raise his arms in an attempt to restrain the crowd.
"If I had had something, I would have thrown it, too," Bearup said. ''That one dude (Holmes) 'chafed' us."
Six seconds later, Davender was fouled as he drove to the basket. He took a shot. It was blocked. UK wanted a two-shot foul or goaltending. It got neither.
The two calls came only moments before UK's second-half lead reached its apex. Davender's fast-break layup put the Wildcats ahead 58-47 with 11:50 to go.
"What enabled us to come back was we continued to keep pressure, keep pressure," Durham said of Georgia's pressing defense. "The last 10 minutes, our defensive pressure was a factor. They executed well against the press early. They were dunking, laying it in. As the game progressed, we stayed with it, stayed with it."
Despite the full-court, up-and-down nature of the game, neither team was careless in the first half. The two teams combined for 69 points (UK 37, Georgia 32) and only eight turnovers (UK five, Georgia three) in the first 20 minutes.
In this high-noon face-off, Kentucky blinked first. The Wildcats did not collapse. Little glitches, taken together, proved UK's undoing.
Joe Ward, who led Georgia with 18 points, scored four straight to cut the Kentucky lead to 58-51. The latter two points came after Ward missed the front end of a one-and-one. Bullish David Dunn tapped the rebound back to Ward, who was undercut by both Winston Bennett and Harden. Bennett was called for a foul, his fifth, and Ward made both free throws to cut UK's lead to 58-51 with 10:29 to play.
The two teams traded baskets until the seven-minute mark, when Georgia again sliced into the Kentucky lead. Melvin Howard, McMillan and Henderson each hit jump shots as the Bulldogs scored six straight points to close within one (68-67) with five minutes remaining.
At the other end, UK was turning the ball over on three straight trips. Harden was called for a debatable charge into Howard; Gerald Crosby sneaked over the weak side and ripped the ball from Walker as the UK forward turned toward the basket on a post-up move; and Howard accounted for the third turnover as he intercepted Harden's dribble.
Georgia took its first lead since the six-minute mark of the first half when Dunn's two free throws put the Bulldogs ahead 71-70 with 4:19 to go.
Georgia claimed the lead for good (73-71) when Crosby rattled in a 20- footer.
When Davender missed a jumper in the lane, Georgia went up four on a McMillan shot from the baseline.
The rest of the game was a trade-off of heroics and miscues, a perfect ending to this drama.
After a UK timeout with 2:19 to go, Crosby picked off James Blackmon's inbounds pass. But Blackmon intercepted Crosby's careless pass from the point to the wing and sped to a finger-rolled layup. That cut the deficit to 75-73.
McMillan answered for Georgia. Never mind working the shot clock. The first time he got a pass on the baseline, McMillan fired and hit with 1:03 remaining. Georgia 77, UK 73.
"It doesn't matter whether it's 90-90 or 90-70, you've got to play your game," McMillan said. "I just play. I forget about everything."
Walker rebounded his own miss and hit a reverse layup to score the last of his game-high 25 points with 46 seconds to go. He was fouled but missed the free throw.
Incredibly, UK got the ball back when Howard slipped in the open court and lost control of his dribble.
With 31 seconds left, UK called time to map an obvious strategy: Get the ball down low to Walker.
When the Cats did just that, Walker was immediately surrounded by four Georgia players. He was left with no choice but to pass back to Davender.
Davender penetrated and got off a 12-footer inside the lane. It bounced off the rim.
"I don't second-guess myself," the freshman guard said of his decision to shoot rather than attempt to feed Walker again. "The same thing (the collapsing defense) would have happened if we got the ball to Kenny.
"The shot just didn't fall."
Neither did Crosby's free throw on the first of a one-and-one with 18 seconds to go.
But there was McMillan, knifing past Bearup into the lane and tapping it over the front of the rim with his right hand.
"I took the assumption that he (Bearup) thought, 'Georgia will get back if he misses,' " McMillan said. "I tried to look relaxed."
Georgia let Bearup score with seven seconds to go.
But when Richard Corhen missed the front end of a one-and-one three seconds later, UK had a chance to tie.
The Cats called time with three seconds to go. The assigned play called for Harden to inbound the ball from the baseline to Walker near midcourt. Walker would turn and find Troy McKinley for a long jump shot.
The play bogged down on the first pass. Howard contested Walker for Harden's floating pass and McMillan rushed up to claim the deflection.
"I simply reacted to the ball," McMillan said, "and it was all over with."