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UK makes Bowling Green's day
Kentucky comes out ahead in the stats, but playing not to lose, instead of to win, costs Wildcats in 56-54 loss
By TCP staff writer Jim Easterwood
LEXINGTON — Close games used to turn Kentucky basketball teams into a pack of Clint Eastwoods.
Let a team get close late in the game and you could almost see the sneer come to their collective faces.
"OK punk, make my day," they would seemingly snarl.
And then teams would fade away.
Now, not only are the 'Cats making teams' days. They are making their years. Or careers.
"To beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena before 20.000.. .well I wouldn't care if they were 0-6," said Bowling Green State guard Joe Gregory. "It would still feel the same. This is something I'll never forget."
Kentucky. 3-5 after losing the first game of its own invitational for only the second time the tourney's 36-year history, indeed is like the aging gunfighter. Once a top gun, he now tries to hide his shakes and fears as foes seek to build reputations.
FIRST IT WAS Northwestern State, an 85-82 nightmare. Last Friday it was Bowling Green State, a 56-54 winner.
The 'Cats again lull their 20,875 fans-some of whom seem to have been counted twice—into a festive mood with a 32-22 halftime lead. Just like they did against the Louisiana bunch.
And then they take a holiday.
But Gregory and his sidekick, Darrell McLane. were not on liberty. Instead, they took liberties with a soft UK defense out front.
Gregory and McLane combined for 23 second-half points to spearhead Bowling Green's victory.
"It was one of the biggest wins, if not the biggest win in our school's history," said Bowling Green coach Jim Larranaga.
Funny, Northwestern State coach Dan Bell said practically the same thing.
The loss sent the lacklustre 'Cats into the consolation game of the UKIT against Marshall. Marshall lost to Arkansas State in the first game, 81-73.
Poor shooting, especially in the second half, sloppy play, soft defense at the guards, and some uninspired play by LeRon Ellis contributed to the demise of the 'Cats.
ELLIS, A 6-10 SOPHOMORE, has a tendency to relax, especially on defense. Friday he seemed to be in his own time zone, both on offense and defense.
His poor offensive production.(a total of nine points) may not have been all his doing.
The 'Cats seemed more content to put it up from outside the second half instead of trying to find Ellis off some picks. But why be picky?
"I think it was probably a combination of their defense and LeRon's not working hard to get open," said UK coach Eddie Sutton. "Or his teammates not getting him the ball when he was open."
Ellis' troubles surfaced early in the second half when he loafed coming back up the court and almost committed his fourth foul, a foolish grab. Exit Ellis and enter 6-10 Mike Scott.
It was at this point McLane, a sub, came into to ignite the Bowling Green team with
a three-point shot. It preceded a 7-0 stretch that helped the Falcons to climb back in. 34-29.
Two more three-pointers by McLane and a long jump shot set the table for his mate. Gregory.
Gregory's 15-footer and two three-pointers sparked Bowling Green to a 54-17 lead with 2:17 left.
"OUR QUICKNESS made the difference," said Gregory. "Especially on (Richie) Farmer and (Sean) Sutton. "1 thought it took its toll on them having to chase both of us the whole game. And then dow n the stretch ...well, maybe they were tired. They couldn't defend that shot."
Gregory probably was right. When Gregory hit a three-point shot over Sutton with 3:46 left. Sutton pulled Sean and inserted Farmer. Derrick Miller picked up McLane. It was Bowling Green by six, 52^46. Desperation time.
Reggie Hanson, perhaps the most consistent of the starters, hit a bucket and Ellis, working hard in the pivot for a change, cashed in on a three-point play. Make it 54-52 with 58 seconds to go.
UK had to commit three fouls to put Bowling Green at the line. Which they did, but letting precious seconds go by at the same time.
UK appeared to have a good shot at the tie-ing bucket when Miller stole the ball after it appeared to deflect off teammate Chris Mills. But Miller rushed a pass downcourt to Mills and Gregory swiped it.
Gregory nailed two free throws to make it 56-52 with 28 seconds left. But Farmer missed a three-pointer as the fans groaned.
However, the hero of Clay County slapped the ball out of Gregory's hands on the in-bounds play. Fifteen seconds were left. With six seconds left Farmer drove the lane to put up a left-handed layup to make it 56-54.
UK then got another break when Ed Colbert. Bowling Green's center, couldn't get the inbounds pass in within five seconds. UK got the ball. After two inbounds pusses wenl awry. Farmer's 19-footer rolled in ..and out a! the buzzer.
Larranaga said there was no way his team should have been in the game given the final statistics.
UK was outshot. 40.0 percent to 32.8 percent, but was on the plus side in turnovers (17 to 20). and rebounds (43 to 34).
"I thought we had to turn over the ball maybe 10 times, shoot about 55 percent and stay within 6-8 boards to have a shot." said Larranaga. "That shows you what I know about basketball."
BUT ITS A STRANGE game at times.
And no one knows this better than larranaga or Sutton.
Larranaga said he could sense a change in momentum in the second half when McLane got hot and UK went cold.
"Experience tends to be positive and negative," said Larranaga. "I think their experience against Northwestern probably weighed heavily on their minds in the late stages."
Sutton said the eyes had it for him. "I looked into the eyes of some of our players and they were remembering the nightmare we had against Northwestern. I just hope we can win some games like this and have some positive thoughts."
UK-Bowling Green play-by-play
Time Kentucky S< ore Bowling Green
19 in Mills 20 fl. 1 3"°
III 4- 3-1 Milium 1 1A, II
It, ,1 Farmer 21 ft. 6-1
16:21 6-3 Street 6 ft.
1 . ,1 Farmer 20 ft. 9-3
! . I; 9-5 Pippin 15 ft.
14:57 9-7 Street 14 ft
13:59 Hanson layup 117
1 ; .-. Ellis 10 II 13-7
13:02 13-9 ( oltx-rt layup
i: Hanson lip 15-9
9:50 15-10 lohnum F1A. F1
9:18 Ellis dunk. 17-10
H 4< 17-13 Gregory 20 ft
¦ 16 Farmer 22 ft. 20-13
7:03 Mills 12 ft. 22-13
b 14 Ellis tip 24-13
- ID Miller 18 ft. .'b-11
, l. 26-15 Mclane FT, FT
4 14 26-17 McLane FT, FT
3:59 2819 Pippin follow layup
2:50 ', 51 Mills layup 30-19 30-21 Pippin 10 ft
1 22 Hanson 12 ft. 32-21
1:19 32-22 McLane FTA. FT
HAIF 32 22
18:26 Hanson FT, FT 34-22
16 21 34-25 McLane 20 ft
15:47 34-27 Street layup
•> <• 34 29 Gregory layup
14:10 Sutton FT, FT 36-29
13:32 Hall FTA, FT
13:05 36-33 McUne 21 fl
12:39 Sutton 17 ft. 38-33
12:20 Hanson layup 40-33
11 4-1 4(1-lb McLane 21 fl.
11 111 Pippin layup
10:34 411-41) Pippin follow layup
10:18 Mills tip 12-40J
9:49 12-42 McLane 18 ft.
8:39 12-44 Gregory 18 fl
8:08 Mills 15 ft. 14-44
6:37 14-47 Gregory 20 ft.