Date story was published: Friday, February 8, 1985
Sportswriters could have used tracing paper to write their stories about Kentucky's 68-62 victory over Vanderbilt last night.
This fill-in-the-blanks Southeastern Conference game had Kenny Walker (who else?) riding to Kentucky's rescue, this time defeating Vandy.
Walker, the SEC's leading scorer and rebounder, scored eight straight points down the stretch to propel Kentucky into a four-way tie for first place. (Georgia, Mississippi State, Florida and defending champ UK are all 7-4.)
For poor Vanderbilt, familiarity bred frustration, if not contempt. In losing for a school-record 10th straight time, the Commodores again came tantalizingly close. Then, Walker snatched victory away. And Vandy, which had lost its previous eight games by a total of 32 points, could claim only another moral victory among the ruins of the SEC basement (1-10).
''In the last two minutes of a close game, I want the ball in my hands," Walker said. "I know I can get the shot or draw the foul or pass off to a teammate for a good shot."
Last night Walker scored 31 points, saving eight of those points for the final 4:22.
Two of Walker's free throws, part of his 13-for-15 effort from the line, inched UK ahead 58-51 with 4:22 to go.
When Vandy sandwiched a three-point play and layup around an ill- advised pull-up jumper by Ed Davender, UK was suddenly gasping at 58-56 with 3:18 remaining.
But the Wildcats had Walker, and with him hope. Vandy had neither.
''If Walker gets the ball down low, he's pretty much unstoppable," Vandy coach C.M. Newton said.
Walker hit his jumper from the foul line, a shot that rolled around the rim before falling through.
When Phil Cox answered with a corner jumper, cutting UK's lead to 60-58, Walker was fouled while posting up. He made both of the one-and-one free throws.
Cox missed a shot at the other end and UK went into its "One-on- Four" offense with James Blackmon handling the ball.
Before Blackmon could make his move, Walker was again fouled trying to post up. The junior forward made both free throws to put UK ahead 64-58.
"It was probably the most physical game by far," Walker said of a contest interrupted by 50 personal fouls and four disqualifications.
Walker was the chief benefactor, making 13 of 15 free throws in the game, nine of 10 in the final 10 minutes.
''Once you hit the first couple, you automatically think they'll all go in," said Walker, who made his first four.
In a three-game stretch earlier this month, Walker made 12 of 22 from the line. Walker credits two phone calls from his high school coach, Clyde Zachery, for his improvement from the line.
''He noticed I was shooting a little faster than normal," Walker said. ''I'm taking a deep breath and following through now."
Kentucky, 12-8 overall, used a four-point play to pull out to a seven- point lead with 15:25 left in the game.
Blackmon, shooting again after a 0-for-0 game against Auburn, sneaked to the basket for a layup and was fouled by a startled Bret Burrow in the first half of the play.
''I thought the ref handed the ball back too quickly," said Blackmon, who was supposed to break to the corner on the play.
Blackmon missed the free throw, but Burrow had to tip the ball away rather than grab it when Winston Bennett contested the rebound.
Bret Bearup, who had 10 rebounds, grabbed the loose ball near the foul line and went up immediately for a shot. He was fouled by Burrow, who tried to fake a charge and was called for blocking.
Bearup made both free throws to give UK a 40-33 lead.
Burrow's two fouls in three seconds were indicative of the foul-plagued game.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, 16 fouls were called. Bennett (11:17) and Vandy's Byron Ball (10:27) fouled out during the span.
Ball, the enforcer for Vandy at 6-foot-8 and 216 pounds, picked up his fifth foul when he grabbed a fast-breaking Davender around the shoulders to prevent a layup.
The knock to the floor was the second jolt Davender received on the play. While going after a tipped rebound, Davender was stunned by a collision with Vandy's Steve Reece (6-9, 232) at midcourt.
Still, Davender maintained his balance, retrieved the loose ball and headed downcourt with Ball in pursuit.
''I saw him," Davender said. "I tried to get him on my back (for a possible three-point play). He just stopped all that."
Ball collared Davender around the shoulders. Davender made both free throws, pushing UK ahead 47-41.
The Wildcat lead reached 11 points (56-45 with six minutes left) when Troy McKinley hit the second of his two outside shots.
Just when it seemed the Vandy shooters would never warm up, they got hot in the early stages of the second half.
Guards Darrell Dulaney and Jeff Gary combined to hit three straight bombs over UK's 2-3 zone to pull Vandy within two (41-39) with 12:17 to go.
But those shots were the exceptions rather than the rules. UK hit 44.7 percent from the field. Vandy made 45.3 percent.
In the first half, when the percentages were even lower, Kentucky trudged to a 30-26 lead.
Vanderbilt, which entered the game shooting 45.6 percent in 10 SEC games, made just 10 of 28 field-goal attempts in the first 20 minutes (35.7 percent).
UK was barely better. The Wildcats connected on 11 of 30 (36.7 percent).
Kentucky's shooting wasn't helped by the absence of Richard Madison. The freshman forward participated in pregame warm-ups, but his strained left knee tightened up as he sat on the bench.
The UK staff had hoped to keep Madison out of last night's game. But at the 10:29 mark of the half, trainer Walt McCombs could be seen working on the knee.
Madison didn't play in the half, however, and had to be helped off the court at intermission.
After the game, UK coach Joe Hall said that Madison was doubtful for UK's game against Mississippi Saturday night at Rupp Arena.
Not surprisingly, cold shooting streaks by both teams gave the first half a seesaw quality.
UK had only one basket in the first five minutes, missed all but one of its first eight attempts and fell behind 8-3 in the early going.
A Burrow layup gave Vandy its largest lead of the half (10-5). Then the Commodores went cold.
Vandy's next eight possessions yielded no points. The Commodores went 0-for-six in the string and were scoreless for more than five minutes.
In that time, UK didn't exactly pull away. The Cats could muster only six points and Walker scored four of those.
Walker, en route to his third 30-point night of the season, had 14 points in the half.
Later, Davender came off the bench to spark a 13-4 run that gave Kentucky its largest lead of the half (eight points at 30-22).
Davender had six of his eight first-half points in the run, including a pull-up 15-footer off the fast break.
Two straight post-up baskets by Walker pushed UK's lead to 30-22.
Once again, Walker seemed to be the best player on the floor. His 10 first-half rebounds helped give the Cats a 25-20 edge off the boards.
Walker finished with 15 rebounds, a big factor in UK's 39-31 rebounding advantage.
''What more can you say about Kenny Walker," said Hall, who has made that statement more than once this season.
Nothing. Just fill in the blanks.