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Image 32 of Kentucky in the NCAA, March 1, 1980

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L l979-80 KENTUCKY BASKETBALL SEASON SUM ARY While expectations were high following a bumper recruiting year, the youthful, fuzzy-cheeked Kentucky Wildcats quickly grew into manhood with a typically tough Kentucky schedule, but even so, not even the crystal-ball gazers could predict the Wildcats would g win three championships during regular season play and go into the NCAA Regional finals with a 29-5 record and a No. 3 national ranking. Following a season opening overtime loss to then No. l ranked Duke, 82-76, the Wildcats reeled off l2 consecutive victories, including championships in the Great Alaskan Shootout and the Cats own Christmas tournament, the UKIT. Their third championship was the toughest and it took the Cats to their last regular season game, one on the road at Louisiana State, before finally subduing the Tigers in overtime to win Kentuckyls 32nd Southeastern Conference championship with a l5-3 record. It was a season that saw the Wildcats play brilliantly in December and falter in January and then come thundering down the stretch with the poise and drive of a Secretariat. The Cats outdueled Iona (top 20) in the finals of the Alaskan tournament, as Kyle Macy and Fred Cowan were named to the All-Tournament team. The Cats returned home for their first game in Rupp Arena and a frenzied crowd turned out for the debut of UK's prized freshmen and witnessed an 80-46 thumping of outmanned Baylor. Two days later, the Cats blitzod South Carolina, l26-8l, handing Carolina coach Frank McGuire his worst ever defeat. McGuire said following the game he "had never seen a team play better than Kentucky tonight." The Wildcats sudden prowess almost was their unduing, for two nights later, they narrowly eked out a 57-56 win at Kansas that left coach Joe B. Hall less than happy, for No. l ranked and unbeaten Indiana was coming to Lexington in three days. . V But Hall got his youth corps back to reality and upset the Hoosiers, 69-58, after trailing by l3 points in the first half. The Wildcats bench, while filled with freshmen, paid off as subs contributed 30 points. The Cats got into early SEC play with a rousing, 95-69, romp over Georgia at the Omni in Atlanta and then won the UKIT with a 78-52 win over California and a squeaking 6l-60 win over No. 7 ranked Purdue, as Macy won MVP honors and was joined for the second time on an All-Tournament team by Cowan. Following the UKIT, super-soph Dwight Anderson left Kentucky for personal reasons and then one day later, Hall suspended freshmen Sam Bowie and Dirk Minniefield for the Notre Dame game for violation of "long standing training rules". The Wildcats regrouped after the sudden loss of talent and showed the world their bench was for real when they whipped Notre Dame (which was 6-0 and ranked No. 3), 86-80, on national television as freshman Derrick Hord got his first start and pulled down ll rebounds. But the big gun, as usual, was "cool Kyle," who scored 2l points and for the second time in three years was named the game's Most Valuable Player. Entering the SEC schedule, the Cats went into their "annual slump" and after Macy beat Auburn, 67-65, with a last second shot, played a lacklustre game at Tennessee, which was without suspended seniors Reggie Johnson and Chuck Treeths, and lost A9-A7. They won at tough Ole Miss, 79-73, and then returned home to absorb their worst defeat in Rupp Arena, a 78-6Q loss to Alabama. But the Cats resurged, winning four in a row over Florida, Vandy, Mississippi State and Georgia before dropping a 65-60 game to LSU at Rupp Arena to throw the SEC into a tic between Kentucky, LSU, and Tennessee. That stinging loss to LSU served as a springboard for a Kentucky surge as the Wildcats rolled off sevcn straight SEC wins and a 74-69 win over Las Vegas on national TV before winning the SEC title at LSU. At the SEC tournament, it was a Kentucky-LSU rematch in the finals and this time, the Tigers upended UK by a 80-78 margin for the tournament championship. 4 While Macy was the catalyst for the season, Bowie's improved play and that of Fred Cowan, the team's most improved player, propelled the Wildcats back into the national picture. Macy Qthird time) and Bowie were named All-SEC and to the SEC All-Tournament Team, while Macy was named All-American for the second time. :30