NEW ORLEANS Kentucky's game Sunday was the 149th of Wayne Turner's career, an NCAA record. It very nearly was his last.
I thought about that as I walked off the court, the senior point guard said. That wouldn't have been the way I'd want to set the record, going out with a loss.
Once again, a championship chase continues because of Turner. Adding to the legend of his postseason prowess, he totaled 19 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals Sunday. Ten of his points came in the furious final 11:09 of regulation, then another three in overtime.
When it was over, Scott Padgett was an obvious MVP. His career-high 29 points and game-tying shot in regulation won the postgame media horde.
Turner was content with a videotape.
This was one heck of a game, he said. I'll probably watch this game like I watched the tape of the Duke game 100 times after last year.
That game, when Turner had 16 points, eight assists, five rebounds and just one turnover, was widely considered his finest hour. It earned him South Region MVP honors.
Sunday was at least as scintillating. Turner, who made just five three-pointers in the regu lar season, made two down the stretch. He's a 68.5-percent free-throw shooter, but he made 5-of-6 from the line Sunday. The point total was the second-highest of his season.
And like the Duke game, it was his dribble penetrations which opened up the floor for his teammates. The defense collapsed inside on him, and Turner kicked it out and helped UK make 11 three-pointers.
I had to get to the basket and score more, Turner said. And I had to have the courage to take three-pointers. We all gave it all we had.
The Mr. March nickname continues to wear well. Turner has averaged 16.2 points in five postseason games, after averaging 9.8 in the regular season.
Wayne's just a remarkable athlete, UK coach Tubby Smith said. He has done it for us so many times. He's just remarkably poised.
Oh, and the record? Turner broke the NCAA mark for most career games previously held by Duke's Christian Laettner (1988-92). He has missed only game in his career, the 1996 NCAA title game vs. Syracuse.
Up next is his quest to become the first non-Blue Devil to play in four Final Fours. Duke's Greg Koubek (1988-91), Laettner and Brian Davis (1989-92) each turned that trick.
Every year, people say we're not the same Kentucky team we were the year before, and we prove we can still do it, Turner said.