Monday, March 22, 1999

Turner's presents won't include a ring


UK's seniors stopped short of Final Four

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — Haul out a big cake and load up on presents. Kill the fatted calf.

        Today is Wayne Turner's 23rd birthday, and he could use some cheer.

        “It'll be tough,” he said Sunday, “but it is my birthday. I'll try to be happy and remember all there is to be happy for.”

        Turner and fellow Kentucky seniors Scott Padgett and Heshimu Evans saw their careers close Sunday in a 73-66 loss to Michigan State in the Midwest Region title game.

        Three of the winningest players in school history had a hard time saying goodbye Sunday night, so they whispered their appreciation for all they had done.

        “As a team, you can't get much better than we have been the last 3-4 years,” Padgett said. “I had a rough start here, but the last three years have been the best of my life. It's been special to have that "Kentucky' on my chest.”

        While the Wildcats expressed their sorrow for not giving the seniors another Final Four trip, coach Tubby Smith took a different tack.

        “I don't feel bad for them, because they've accomplished so much,” he said. “Having played in college myself, I only wish I could have been in their shoes.”

        Sunday was a tough afternoon for the seniors.

        Evans scored 12 points in the first 10 minutes, but got into foul trouble and was shut out thereafter. Padgett scored 11 points, but seven of those came in the last two minutes. Turner totaled eight assists with just two turnovers, but he scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

        UK went 25:27 without any scoring from its seniors, until Turner scored on a basket with 3:26 left in the game.

        “It was hard,” Evans said. “We were planning on going to the Final Four. I had some stupid fouls, frustration fouls, so it was tough not being able to be on the floor.”

        Padgett had averaged 19.3 points the last four games, shooting .525 from the field, but he was just 1-of-6 Sunday before making two three-pointers in the final 31 seconds.

        “The thing that frustrated me was I got four open shots and missed them,” he said. “Those four were as open as any I've had.”

        Turner, whose NCAA record for career games played ends with a total of 151, missed a chance to become just the fourth player in history to play in four Final Fours. Duke's Greg Koubek (1988-91), Brian Davis ('89-92) and Christian Laettner ('89-92) are the only ones to have turned that trick.

        MSU All-American guard Mateen Cleaves played suffocating defense and Turner missed two crucial shots, one with five minutes left, the other with two minutes to play.

        “Oh, man,” Turner said. “I thought those were in the hole, and they rolled out.”

        After Smith spoke to the team, the seniors all stood to say a few words to their teammates.

        “That shows their true character,” UK junior Jamaal Magloire said. “They were just encouraging us, saying how proud they were of us.”

        Said Turner: “It's been a great time, playing with some of the best players in the country. Look at all our players in the NBA (eight from the past three years). Those are the guys who really made me who I am today.”

        The Final Four will be played Saturday and for a change, UK will watch on TV.

        “It'll be weird being at school,” Turner said. “Thankfully, I've got my memories from the last three.”

       



Kentucky Stories
It's simple: Spartans were better team Tim Sullivan column
MICHIGAN ST. 73, KENTUCKY 66
- Turner's presents won't include a ring
KENTUCKY NOTEBOOK
Cleaves' pain felt by UK
MARCH MADNESS PAGE