In Anchorage, Alaska, that day, Kentucky junior guard Derrick Millar — the player then known as “Derrick Miller” — hit seven of eight three-pointers and scored 36 points as Eddie Sutton’s Wildcats blasted California 89-71 in the consolation round of The Great Alaska Shootout.
The game is notable because it launched UK into a streak in which it has made a three-pointer in every game since. If John Calipari’s Cats can sink at least one trey Saturday when they visit Alabama, Kentucky will have made a three in 1,000 straight contests.
Over the course of the last 999 games, only UNLV has matched Kentucky game-for-game by making a three-pointer in every contest.
During the streak, the three-pointer has taken Kentucky basketball on a thrill ride.
One Cats player hit a trey to win three straight NCAA Tournament games. Another Wildcat hit a three to send the NCAA championship game into overtime.
With the Final Four at stake, a Cat hit a last-minute trey to take the lead over Duke for good. A UK player hit a three in another NCAA Tournament regional final to force overtime — then taunted the CBS color analyst working the game.
A Kentucky Wildcat sank a three-pointer to put UK ahead in a game the Cats had trailed by 31 points — in the second half. One Wildcat hit five treys in a row in a first half against North Carolina.
Just this season, a Cat hit a last-minute three to put Kentucky ahead of North Carolina for good in a 103-100 hoops tour de force.
Started in the fourth game of Sutton’s final year as Kentucky coach, the three-point streak has persisted through the UK coaching tenures of Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie and, so far, Calipari.
Over the streak’s course, UK players have attempted 19,157 three-point shots. The Cats have made 6,851. That is a success rate of 35.8 percent.
When UK basketball was in its darkest place — crippled by a stringent NCAA probation in 1989 — Pitino and his Bombinos used the trey to bring Kentucky back.
“The three-point shot was so much a part of the restoration of Kentucky basketball when it was at its lowest point,” says 1998 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Jeff Sheppard, who contributed 128 made treys to the current streak. “That’s why I like that the streak keeps Kentucky associated with the ‘three.’”
The night, Jan. 13, 2009, Meeks dropped 54 points on Tennessee to claim Kentucky’s single-game scoring mark, he drained a school-record 10 treys in 15 attempts.
Delk made seven threes in an NCAA championship game, hitting seven-of-12 vs. Syracuse in 1996.
A former UK walk-on made 17 three-pointers in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. Cameron Mills came back the following year and hit three crucial treys in 1998’s Big Dance.
There may never again be a run of clutch three-pointers like Aaron Harrison hit to beat Louisville (39 seconds) in the NCAA tourney round of 16, Michigan (2.3) in the round of eight and Wisconsin (5.7) in the Final Four in 2014.
Given the stakes in an NCAA title game, no UK player may have ever hit a more pressure-packed three than the one Epps buried with 12.1 seconds left to force overtime with Arizona in the 1997 championship game.
“I ball-faked to get a defender past me, then was fortunate enough to hit a shot that gave my team a chance at a second straight national championship in overtime,” said Epps, who contributed 155 made treys to the streak. “We didn’t get it, but I was blessed to hit a shot that gave us that chance.”
The last time Kentucky did not make a three-pointer in a game was Nov. 26, 1988. In a 63-60 loss to Seton Hall in the Great Alaska Shootout, UK went 0-of-2 on three-point shots. Chris Mills missed one and John Pelphrey missed one.
In the 999 games since, there have been some close calls. Two seasons ago against Eastern Kentucky, UK entered the final three minutes of the game 0-of-10 on treys.
Aaron Harrison saved the day with 2:55 left to play.
The time will come, of course, when the streak will end.
When that happens, Sheppard says something unique will be lost.
“To me, part of what makes this streak such a cool thing is it’s something that players from back in the ’80s and ’90s still share with the players playing for Kentucky now,” he says.
No. 15 Kentucky at Alabama
1 p.m. Saturday (CBS-27)