This article, written by Danny McKenzie, was first published in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer on March 9, 1984.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. The chant was familiar, the response fairly phenomenal.
“Mel-vin” went the crowd.
Slam dunk responded Turpin.
Rebound and putback.
You get the picture. Put a big frame around it, big enough at least to encase Kentucky's 6-foot-11 Melvin Turpin. And put it in the trophy room because Turpin was good for a couple of Southeastern Conference Tournament records while he was leading his third-ranked Wildcats to their 92-79 win over Georgia.
Turpin responded to the familiar Kentucky chant of “Mel-vin, Mel-vin” for 42 points and 16 rebounds. The 42 – his 42nd came on the
game's last shot — tied Cliff Hagan's 1952 outburst against Tennessee. Turpin's 18 field goals, however, make him No. 1 in the SEC tournament annals – that's two better than Hagan got in his record-setting game — and The Dipper was only one short of tying the mark Alabama's Bobby Lee Hurt set last year.
Hurt and Turpin will get a chance to settle that tonight when they go against each other in the Kentucky-Alabama semi-final game set for 8
Tennessee and Auburn get things started with their 6 0'clock game. But chances are the the capacity crowd of 15, 426 will still be buzzing
after the performances by Kentucky and Turpin.
“l would have to say that we played the first 10 minutes about as well as we can play,” Kentucky coach Joe Hall pontificated after his
Cats had rolled to their 24th win in 28 games.
“l really like the way we went into the game,” he continued. “We had good intensity in all phases of our game. ”
Even though Turpin dominated things, Hall felt it was a “complete team game.”
“We had a lot of people play well tonight,” he said. “Dicky Beal really got our break going. Turpin, (Sam) Bowie and (Kenny) Walker were all
strong inside. Everybody played well.
“We were in a running attitude,” Hall added, “and we were in a rebounding attitude. ”
Not to mention a winning attitude. Georgia coach Hugh Durham, whose Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 17-11 record and hoping
for a bid to the National Invitational Tournament, had his explanation ready.
“What happened tonight was that for a four- or five-minute stretch in the first half Kentucky played the way it wanted to,” he said.
‘They never had to play tight. They were loose and we never put them in a position where they had to play tight. ”
That about summed it up. Halfway through the opening 20 minutes Kentucky had built a 35-16 lead and Durham had to call timeout
and explain the facts of life to his Dawgs.
“We were playing defense at about a 140-points-a-game clip,” he mused. “They'd scored 35 the first 10 minutes, now you double that and you've got 70, double that and you've got 140.
“That won't beat anybody. ”
Especially since Turpin looked as if he was going to score that many himself. The Dipper finished with an 18-of-22 night from the field and hit six of seven from the free-throw line. Thirteen of his 16 rebounds came in the first half. And after it was all over all he could think about was his defense.
“I wish I could have done a lot better on defense,” he said, noting Georgia center Richard Corhen hit a couple of jumpers over him. “I made those mistakes but I'm going to try and correct those. ”
He claimed he was unaware he was nearing Hagan's record. With the Wildcats on top 83-71, Hall called for UK to go into its stack offense, meaning delay game. But when he became aware of Turpin's chance at the record he instructed his troops differently.
“I didn't know I was close to the record until Sam told me to post up and try to get the shot,” he said. “But I really just wanted the win,” he added. “I didn't want them to throw the ball away just to get me a record. But they just kept going to me.”
And he kept responding.
His performance completely overshadowed that of his teammates, namely Walker, Bowie and Beal, not to mention that of Georgia's Vern
Fleming and James Banks.
Walker finished with 18 points and eight rebounds while Bowie had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Beal scored but eight points but dished out 10 assists.
The Wildcats controlled the boards, 41-22, and though the Bulldogs hit 50.8 from the field (33 of 65), Kentucky topped that one too, hitting
37 of 63 for a 58.7 percentage. including a 68.2 second half on 15 of 22 from the floor.
Fleming showed how he came to be the only unanimous selection on this year's All-SEC Team. The 6-5 senior guard scored 30 points for Georgia and Banks came through with 23.
Turpin scored 24 of his points in the first half when the Wildcats raced to a 47-34 lead.
Turpin proved to be unstoppable, canning 11 of 14 from the field and two of three from the free-throw line.
The Dipper got his first goal when he followed a missed shot by Walker and put UK up 7-2 less than two minutes into the game.
Walter Cornett, of Glendale, Kentucky, is the owner and operator of Walter's Wildcat World. He founded WildcatWorld.com in 1998 making it one of the oldest Kentucky basketball fan sites in operation today.