Even without three starters, the Iona Gaels almost were good enough to beat Kentucky Friday in the opening game of the Great Alaska Shootout at Anchorage.
A victory of any kind, however, was good enough for beleaguered Wildcat coach Eddie Sutton.
“I’d never wish anybody bad luck, but we’ve had a little,” Sutton said after Kentucky escaped with a 56-54 victory. “We were due for a break.”
The Wildcats, 1-1 after an 80-55 loss to No. 1 Duke last week, are playing under the cloud of an NCAA investigation that already has resulted in the resignation of Athletic Director Cliff Hagan. The NCAA has accused the Kentucky basketball program of 18 infractions, so Sutton’s lack of sympathy for Iona’s plight was understandable.
The Gaels’ Glenn Grant, Nestor Payne and Joe Johnson had to sit out the team’s season opener for playing in a summer game that was not sanctioned by the NCAA. “Obviously, we’d have been a much more consistent unit if we’d had them,” Iona Coach Gary Brokaw said.
Kentucky’s LeRon Ellis scored a career-high 22 points, including several stuff shots on lob passes from the coach’s son, playmaker Sean Sutton.
“LeRon’s got good hands,” Sutton said of the 6-foot-10 sophomore, “and Sean’s an excellent passer. If he’s there, Sean will get him the basketball.”
Iona rallied from an 11-point deficit in the game’s final 5 minutes.
Iona freshman Mark Gilbert hit a 3-point bomb to cut the Wildcat lead to 54-50, then stole the ball in the Kentucky backcourt and was fouled. He made both free throws to slice the lead to 54-52 with 45 seconds to play.
The Gaels got the ball back on another Kentucky turnover, but Kentucky’s Reggie Hanson stole the ball and was fouled. He sank both free throws to boost the lead to 56-52 before Kevin Cooper’s rebound basket completed the scoring.
Kentucky’s Chris Mills, who had 14 points, missed the first half of a one-and-one free throw try with 6 seconds to go, but Ellis grabbed the rebound to preserve the victory.
North Carolina 105, Indiana 92--Jeff Lebo scored a career-high 29 points and made 6 of his first 7 three-point attempts as fifth-ranked North Carolina beat No. 20 Indiana at Madison Square Garden for third place in the Big Apple National Invitation Tournament.
It was only the third time Indiana has given up more than 100 points in a game in Bob Knight’s coaching career, but the second in 2 games. Syracuse beat the Hoosiers, 102-78, in the semifinals and Iowa scored 101 points against Indiana in 1987.
No. 6 Syracuse met No. 13 Missouri in the championship game of the fourth annual event.
Memphis State 88, Chaminade 44--Freshman Ernest Smith scored 20 points and Memphis State opened the game with a 20-2 run as the Tigers beat host Chaminade in the opening round of the Maui tournament at Lahaina, Hawaii.
Chaminade (1-2) scored the game’s first 2 points 27 seconds into the game, then was held scoreless over the next 8:04 as Memphis State ran off 20 points, 6 by sophomore guard Elliott Perry.
Sam Trusty and Rod McCray each had 16 for Chaminade, an NAIA school in Honolulu.
St. John’s 71, Long Island U. 55--Matt Brust had 17 points to lead St. John’s to a victory over Long Island University in the opening round of the 14th annual Joe Lapchick Memorial tournament in New York.
Malik Sealy had 15 points for the Redmen, who have won all 13 previous tournament titles. St. John’s will play BYU in tonight’s final. The Cougars defeated Northeastern, 87-78, in the opening game.