The date was February 24, 1993 and I was sitting in Thompson-Boling arena watching my beloved #2 ranked wildcats in an unexpected battle with unranked Tennessee. The cats had only lost twice that season and for my fandom that was two too many, so the prospect at losing again to the team I hated so much while I was in attendance... well it was sickening to say the least.
As the game got down to it's final seconds, a 4-point possession inexplicably happened for UT that essentially sealed the Cats fate, as well as my impending school absences due to depression. Allan Houston made one free throw, and then missed the second on purpose and the Vols rebounded, scored on the put back plus a foul. What was devastating was Houston's uncalled blatant lane violation that helped aid in the offensive rebound.
I remind you of that nightmare scenario to remind you of what turned out to be the perfect follow up game just a few weeks later in Rupp Arena during the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.
The starters for that game were Travis Ford, Dale Brown, Jared Prickett, Jamal Mashburn, and Rodney Dent. The Cats would make it crystal clear how this game would go from the start by jumping out to a 14-0 nothing lead and it was not until 5 minutes into the game that UT would crack the scoring column. Rupp was rocking and every member of BBN had revenge on their mind for the "suspect" win the Vols had conjured up a few weeks prior. While I was in that same revenge camp, all these years later I no longer see it as a revenge game. I see it as a reckoning, exacting retribution for the actions of the past. Nobody said it better than Doc Holiday in Tombstone.
By the end of the first half, the cats led 41-17 and Tom Hammond of then JP Sports broadcast said it best:
"It comes to a close, mercifully for the volunteers."
A lot of times when a team comes out and blitzes another team and leads them 41-17 at the half you will see a drop off and the game will ultimately end with a 10-15 point deficit, even though it was never that close. As a UK fan what would transpire in the second half was music to my ears.
Growing up in the 90's, we were all spoiled on Kentucky dominance. It was to the point where I did not hope for wins, I wanted blowouts and I wanted the Wildcats to get to the next level of a blowout in wins. What I mean by that is, if we were up 16 with a few minutes left, I wanted it to finish above 20. If we were up 26, I wanted 30... 36, I wanted 40, and so on and so on.
This second half was not going to be the norm of let down and boring old 15 point win, these Cats were doing their best Wyatt Earp impression in collecting a reckoning from the Big Orange goo. In what was a microcosm of the day and foreshadowing of what was coming, Lang Wiseman took the Vols first shot of the second half and it was a terrible air ball, inciting the appropriate chants of "Air ball!" from the raucous 24,000 in attendance.
UK would start with a 9-0 run and it was capped off by the play that loudly announced this would not be a coasting win. As the ball was headed out of bounds near the corner, UT saved it back inbounds near the coach's box, and a sprinting Ford caught the ball and in mid-air he re-saved it backwards over his head directly to Jared Prickett. Prickett immediately touch passed it down to Rodney Dent under the basket for a backwards jam and a 50-17 lead. The play can be seen at the 3:13 mark of the below highlight video.
Kentucky would go on to dominate and finish off the 101-40 victory and during the shellacking; Tom Hammond gave a memorable line;
"During the regular season these two teams split, but so far tonight, the Wildcats have turned the Volunteers into kitty litter."
In the process they would set or tie THIRTEEN records, including:
- Most points scored - 101
- Most 3 point shots made -12
- Most assists - 30 (WOW)
- Most steals - 19 (DOUBLE WOW)
- Most forced turnovers - 30
- Opponent's lowest FG percentage - 23.1%
Kentucky would have seven players score double figures, led by freshman Tony Delk with 15 points. They would have 12 of 13 total players score in the game including 4 points and 6 rebounds in just seven minutes of play from UK's unofficial victory cigar and fan favorite Todd Svoboda. Proof positive that it just was not UT's day was the fact that Svoboda outscored All-SEC and future NBA star Allan Houston. Houston did not break the scoring column until less than five minutes left in the game when he hit is only basket, which was fittingly a three pointer. Houston would also end with seven turnovers in what would be his final collegiate game to add salt to the wound.
In March of 2011, UT would retire Houston's #20 in a game that ironically would see UK beat UT, and Houston still remembers the reckoning well. This ESPN article discussing the ceremony included an excerpt interview with him.
He still enjoys talking Vols basketball, though he doesn't like recalling his final game as a Vol. Kentucky beat Tennessee 101-40 in the 1993 SEC tournament to end Houston's career.
The Wildcats spoiled Houston's homecoming this time, too, beating Tennessee 64-58 to sweep the season series. It didn't bother Houston too much, though.
"Being from Kentucky, growing up with the magnitude of Kentucky basketball -- to have it happen like this is special," he said.
The fact that Delk led the cats in scoring with 15 speaks volumes to the tone of dominance that was a total team effort. The cats also did this largely without the services of Jamal Mashburn who only played his fewest minutes all season, 22. Mash was fine, the Cats just did not need him that night so he got his 11 points and 9 rebounds in 22 minutes and enjoyed watching the others dismantle the Vols. The one stat line that stood out was player of the game Jared Prickett. Prickett had 11 points, 8 rebounds, SEVEN steals, and 5 assists.
For me personally, the pain of the loss a few weeks ago was immediately extinguished. My joy had not only come from the win, but in an act of hubris I had bet one of my UT fan buddies that not only would UK win this game, but I gave him THIRTY points and the Vols. I knew at the time it was dumb and I knew I had just flushed away $10 (big money to an 8th grader in '93). I did not care, I was confident we would win by around 20 and was hoping for that plateau of 30. Fortunately, for me, I had apparently won my bet with about 15 minutes left in the game and I could have doubled my generosity!
This is going to be a summer long series of writings by myself and potentially other members of A Sea of Blue as we reminisce on some of our favorite UK memories and games that may not be in the forefront of BBN's mind. If you have any specific games you want us to include reply in the comments to this or email me at Keithwg24@outlook.com.
I got this idea from twitter when a few fellow Wildcat Friends were reminiscing about the dominance of the 1993 Cats:
Some other fan input from the game:
@_KeithGarrett Was 1 of most satisfying & dominant games I've seen by a UK team. I (& apparently team) wanted largest margin possible.— Michael Vick (@huMVickster) June 12, 2014
@_KeithGarrett And like others have said, 61 wasn't enough after the hose job at the end of the game in Knoxville just a week before.— Seth S (@CentreSIFella) June 12, 2014
@_KeithGarrett that was year we got screwed in Knox. Loved sending Allan Houston out in ass kicking in which he got shutdown.— Kelly Anderson (@bluekel) June 12, 2014
@CentreSIFella Todd Svoboda outscoring Allan Houston is awesome.— GYERO_Lurker (@GYERO_Lurker) June 11, 2014
@_KeithGarrett Even Ralph Hacker was on point. "They're taking Tennessee to the barn shed." "Tennessee has given up, Charlie."— Seth S (@CentreSIFella) June 12, 2014
The final Box Score from the game: