Truman Claytor, a reserve Kentucky guard, showed Virginia Military Institute some hot shooting last night and the Wildcats advanced to the NCAA East Regional basketball final with a 93-78 victory at Maryland's Cole Field House.
VMI, the Southern Conference school that reached the final eight on its shooting a year ago, put up blanks much of tonight.
Claytor, who replaced starter Jay Shidler 2 1/2 minutes into the game, scored a career-high 29 points - 23 over his average - and made 12 of his first 14 shots against VMI's sagging zone. Jack Givens scored 26 points for Kentucky, including 18 points in the second half.
The score was tied at 49 early in the second half before VMI went on a seven-for-21 shooting failure following four straight turnovers. This produced on 81-60 Kentucky lead with five minutes to play. At this point, the Keydets had made barely more than 40 per cent of their first 66 shots.
The win put Kentucky into Saturday's 12:15 p.m. final against the winner of the Notre Dame-North Carolina game. VMI finished its season with a 26-4 record, Ron Carter scored 28 points for VMI.
VMI, the seventh-best shooting team in Division I this season, started the game as if it was seventh from the bottom. The only question at this stage, as VMI missed 11 of its first 13 shots, was how quickly Kentucky would cover the 14-points spread.
But once the Keydets found their eyes, the first half became a marvelous shooting exhibition between VMI's Ron Carter and Kentucky's Truman Claytor, a reserve guard who led all scores with 16 points.
Kentucky led at halftime, 44-41, VMI point guard Kelly Lombard closing out the scoring with a 30-foot bomb at the buzzer.
At one stage, VMI took advantage of Kentucky's inability to get back on defense to score a layup following a Wildcat basket and again on a 3-on-1 fast break. It came during a stretch in which the Keydets made 11 of 15 shots and went from 10 points down to a 27-22 lead in 13 possessions, an average output of almost 1.8 points per possession.
The KEydets, however, suffered when forward Will Bynum, their most consistent player, picked up his third foul with 4:30 left in the half and went to the bench.
Claytor was most responsible for keeping Kentucky ahead. he had scored more than 16 points only once in his two-year career.
Carter had 14 points for VMI and center Dave Montgomery 11. Their value was also immense in rebounding, the part of the game VMI coach Charlie Schmaus considered most vital to his team's chances.
Each had six rebounds as VMI out rebounded its taller, heavier foe, 20-17. Kentucky got only to offensive rebounds in the first half, good for one basket.
Kentucky finally started asking control early in the second half as Claytor continued hitting outside shots with regularity and the Wildcat defense became more aggressive.
The defense, producing steals by Claytor and Larry Johnson in a span of four straight VMI turnovers turned a 49-all game into a 55-49 Kentucky lead.
Then, with Claytor hitting and VMI outside threat John Krovic missing, Kentucky opened the margin to 65-54 on Claytor's fourth straight bomb of the half, giving him 12-for-14 accuracy for the game.
Kentucky, meanwhile, was starting to get the ball inside regularly, and exploiting its own brand of horses from the bluegrass country. The lead reached 19 points, 79-60, with 6 1/2 minutes to play.