Sutton felt a closely officiated game would be to Arkansas' advantage, because it might limit the effectiveness of Kentucky's big bruisers, Robey and Mike Phillips. Instead, the non-stop whistling hurt the Hogs. By the half, the Razorbacks' two biggest starters, 6'11" Steve Schall and 6'7" Jim Counce, had four fouls each, and Kentucky was ahead to stay 32-30.
With their superior depth, the Wildcats were bound to win a war of attrition, and they did just that, as their reserves outscored the Razorbacks 19-3, with Lee getting 13 by himself. Among the starters on both teams, only Givens played to form, with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Because of the fouls, Arkansas spent much of the game in a zone instead of the stingy man-to-man it plays so masterfully. It was not until the Razorbacks reverted to their favorite defense midway through the final period that they were able to exert pressure and take full advantage of their quickness. The Hogs cut a nine-point lead to one with 3:31 remaining. That is as close as Arkansas got: on their one opportunity to pull ahead, the Razorbacks got the ball inside to Sidney Moncrief, a 60% shooter. This shot—like 21 others Moncrief and his Arkansas co-stars, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph, put up—did not fall.
When the game was over, Kentucky felt more relief than satisfaction. "One more, one more, one more," Robey repeated in the dressing room. He was "counting down to the lone remaining accomplishment of his collegiate career, the NCAA championship. As freshmen, he, Phillips, Givens and Lee were on a team that reached the national finals before losing to UCLA. As sophomores they won the NIT, and as juniors they reached the East Regional finals. The game against Duke would be their last chance.
The possibility that these Wildcats might blow their final opportunity was a specter that haunted Hall all season. Though Kentucky was ranked No. 1 for all but two weeks, the coach chastised and criticized his players constantly, even suggesting at one point they might be immortalized as the Folding Five.
"We've fussed at each other a bit," he says, "but I had to create some controversy to offset all the extravagantly good things that were being said about our team—that it could win both the NBA and the NFL. I had to change the players' thinking so they wouldn't believe they already had it won."
Now that the season and the hassling that went with it are over, the players are free to think whatever they want. Even Hall had to admit that, yes, he liked what he saw Monday night.