Second-ranked Kentucky gave Indiana a dose of its own medicine tonight.
Led by a clutching, bruising, Indiana-type man-to-man defense, the Wildcats dominated the defending national champions for the first 20 minutes before coasting to an 85-69 victory over the 10th-ranked Hoosiers in Rupp Arena.
The loss, which broke Indiana's 12-game winning streak that included last year's drive to the national title, could have been much worse. Indiana trailed, 47-25, at halftime and by as many as 25 points in the second half before a late run cut the lead to 11 long after the outcome had been decided.
The big difference between the teams was in the guard play. While Indiana Coach Bob Knight tried unsuccessfully to come up with a solid combination, Kentucky's guards, Dirk Minniefield and Jim Master, were sensational. Minniefield, penetrating, passing and hitting from long range, scored 22 points, including seven of eight from the floor during the first half. Master, shooting almost exclusively from 20 feet out and beyond, had 17 points.
Inside and outside, the Wildcats (3-0) were too strong, too fast, too experienced and too excited by the screaming crowd for Indiana (2-1) to have a chance.
"We just got the hell beat out of us in the first half by a team that played one hell of a half," said Knight during his brief postgame interview. "I was extremely impressed by their shooting, especially from the guards. They never let us get set on offense."
This was a game only briefly. The only tie came at 2-2. It was 14-10 after seven minutes when Kentucky, the officials and the crowd of 24,165 all got rolling.
Minniefield hit on two drives and Master sank a jumper to make it 20-12. Then, referee Lou Moser failed to make a call on what appeared certain goaltending and Knight began screaming. On Kentucky's next possession, center Melvin Turpin, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in place of injured Sam Bowie, was fouled while passing off.
When referee Ken Lauderdale awarded Turpin two shots, that was too much for Knight. He screamed at Lauderdale, then at Moser. Moser, who gave Knight two technicals in this building during the NCAA tournament two years ago, gave him another.
Knight then turned on the third official, Jim Bain, screaming some more. Bain added a second technical. By the time the debris had cleared, Kentucky led, 25-13.
The Hoosiers never got back their composure. During the last nine minutes of the half they were outscored, 22-10, as Minniefield made life miserable for the Hoosiers' inexperienced guards and the Kentucky's switching zones kept Indiana outside.
"The first half we played about as well as we can," said Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall in a rare acknowledgement of self-excellence. "We were aggressive on defense and beat their defense down on offense."
That was not enough for Hall, though. When his team, after shooting 59 percent the first half, shot 40 the second and did not open the lead further, he berated his team so loudly in the locker room that his voice could be heard outside the door.
"I'm very concerned about this team's lack of killer instinct," he said. "That's something we haven't had for three years. The second half was very discouraging for me. Great ballclubs don't let down like that."
The Kentucky players, trained not to enjoy, agreed with their coach. "We should have blown them out by 40, I would have treasured that the rest of my life," said Minniefield. "We still have a lot of work to do and Coach Hall let us know it."
For Indiana, the only encouraging signs were the play of freshmen big men John Flowers and Uwe Blab. Ted Kitchel led the scoring with 17 points before fouling out. Blab had 13 and six rebounds in 21 minutes.
The most important statistics belonged to the starting guards. Master and Minniefield had 39 points, 15 assists and three turnovers. Indiana's Jim Thomas and Tony Brown were one of 12 from the floor, had two points, four assists and six turnovers before both were removed.