- Saturday, February 11 1978 -
Kentucky - 94 (Head Coach: Joe B. Hall) - [Ranked 1st by AP]
Louisiana State - 95 (Head Coach: Dale Brown) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Louisiana State 45, Kentucky 43
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Game Writeup - by Rick Bailey, Lexington Herald-Leader
Reserves Provide LSU A Reason to Celebrate
BATON ROUGE, La. - The memory will endure.
In the pandemonium of the Assembly Center there was Dale Brown, feet off the ground, waving his fist in the air and celebrating the greatest victory of his coaching career at Louisiana State.
The final score Saturday night was LSU 95, Kentucky, No. 1, a favorite for the national championship, 94. In overtime, too.
By now, the story of LSU's game in Lexington a month ago is history. A 20-point loss and injudicious comments by Brown about UK's style of play.
Now is the time to talk about how the Tigers used five substitutes to beat the top-ranked Wildcats.
Kenny Higgs is a willing spokesman. He's the senior from Owensboro who finally realized his dream of defeating the school he wanted to attend. He's also the guy who watched the last twenty-one minutes and eighteen seconds because he fouled out.
"We hauled together," Higgs smiled afterward, still rejoicing after his team's great triumph. "It was like we were still playing there was so much spirit.
"Kentucky had most of their lineup still in there but we kept taking it to them. These are the guys we work against in practice. Victory was on our mind. And I think we wanted it more than they did."
It is certain the Tiger reserves wanted to win. Willie Sims is one. He is a freshman guard. He made LSU's last three points, on free throws. Without them, the visiting Wildcats might have survived.
"I was confident," Sims confirmed. "They are ball players just like we are and we won it.
"When I got in, I was about the only guard we had and I had to take up the slack. I knew I had to make my free throws."
Actually, Sims missed the first shot in the bonus twice. After that, he was six of eight.
There was another guard in the game for the Tigers. He was Jordy Hultberg, usually a starter, an onlooker Saturday night because Dale Brown wanted quickness in his lineup.
But, when it counted, Jordy Hultberg scored four critical points in the extra period. When Ethan Martin, a freshman who is a veteran before his time, departed with 3:02 left in overtime, Hultberg had to star. He did.
"When Kentucky went to a zone, Hultberg said, it was my time to hit some (two field goals, in fact). I didn't think about our starters being out. We all were determined to win."
And so Louisiana State did win.
There were many other heroes. Martin, for one. He had 20 points, eight assists and four steals. He had not started since early in the season. His only failure was missing several times from the field late in the game. More importantly, he was the player who ran LSU's four-corner offense.
The debate will rage as to whether the four-corner attack helped or hurt LSU. The Tigers did, at the end of regulation, lose a twelve-point lead. With victory almost certain, LSU could not hold off the rallying Cats.
But without the four corners, the Tigers might have missed out on one of the biggest upsets in their history.
"The four corners beat us against Florida," Martin declared, "and coach said he wouldn't use it again."
Dale Brown was wrong. He did use it again.
"I knew we couldn't play Kentucky straight up," Brown explained, a net draped around his neck. "We had five subs in the game and we couldn't get in a basket exchange. We stood around against Florida. "Tonight, we penetrated and were more aggressive with it."
Rick Robey, Kentucky's leading scorer with 18, had his opinion about the four corners.
"I guess it worked tonight because they won the game," Robey said. "But it did help us get back in it when we set the tempo and started running.
"We were playing well at the end. We'd come from ten points down with three minutes to go. But we missed a free throw in overtime and they made most of theirs. Whoever hits their shots in overtime will win. That was the difference."
Robey himself was involved in a controversial play.
Near the end of regulation, LSU's Martin missed from the key. Robey rebounded in heavy traffic, tried to start upcourt and was called for walking.
"I thought it was a questionable call," Robey said. "I though I was fouled on the rebound."
Three seconds remained but Sims missed the final shot, forcing the overtime.
That just delayed the inevitable - LSU winning. Kentucky losing its second game of the season - and second in Southeastern Conference play.
"We're having difficulty playing against teams that want it more than we do," losing coach Joe Hall said. "We had the momentum in overtime and lost it."
And LSU kept its cool until the glorious end. Even with two players in the game - Floyd Bailye and Rick Mattick - who had seen very limited duty.
Mattick had taken fifteen free throws all season, but he made three of four in the extra period. Two were in the bonus situation.
Bailey had shot thirteen times from the field all season. But he made both his attempts Saturday night. His stuff shot of a Sims miss gave LSU a 92-89 lead with a minute seven to go. Kentucky got no closer than two points until James Lee's basket at the end.
There was a hint of controversy earlier in the game. Martin and UK's Kyle Macy and Mike Phillips were in the backcourt. Martin committed his fourth foul, seemingly hacking Phillips.
Instead, Macy went to the foul line - and missed. When the Tiger bench saw what was happening, a player told Brown who rushed to the scorer's table.
"If I had pushed the button, it would have been an automatic technical on me," Brown explained. "I decided not to."
Phillips, meanwhile, said that Macy was fouled on the play and should have been at the foul line.
The play revived memories of Ernie Grunfeld shooting - and making - four free throws for his Tennessee Volunteers in a game at Kentucky two yeas ago.
Meanwhile, Brown had praise for his counterpart.
"After the game, Joe Hall shook my hand with a smile. That takes character especially when the opposing coach had been critical of his team's style. And the president (Otis Singletary) told me he was proud of Kentucky and said we deserved to win."
Of course, LSU deserved the victory. There can be no doubt. It was especially important because the Tigers were fired up and played well throughout.
It gives LSU a sense of legitimacy, too, in its belief that it can contend for the SEC - second this year, who knows after that.
"We have turned it around, Higgs declared. Someday they're gonna say, 'Can Kentucky beat LSU?' instead of the other way around."
LSU's DeWayne Scales secures the ball in front of Kentucky's Mike Phillips (#55)
Duran Macklin (#40) pushes the ball against Jack Givens
LSU's Jordy Hultberg (#20) shoots over Tim Stephens (#30)