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Friday, December 28, 2012

Memorable UK/UL moments

     Saturday's Kentucky/Louisville game will mark the 35th meeting between the two rivals since they tipped off in Knoxville's Stokely Center for the 1983 NCAA Mideast Regional Final. I've seen all of them (except the 1989 matchup, which was not televised due to UK probation, though I did listen on radio). Two I've seen in person, December 87 and December 01, both in Rupp.

     Off the top of my head, these are the 16 most memorable moments in the series over the years, in chronolgoical order:

Jim Master
1983 (Knoxville): Memory--Jim Master's last second jump shot from the baseline to send the original Dream Game into overtime. The Cards blew the doors off in the extra period, and advance to a 3rd final four in 4 years with a 80-68 win. The loss deepend Joe B. Hall's bad mojo in the Stokely Center, a place where he only won twice in his career.

Bowie made SI's cover
1983 (Rupp):       Memory-- Sam Bowie's return from two years of stress fracture drama only added to the intensity of the payback motif. The pride of Lebanon, PA did not disappoint as the twin towers of Bowie and Mel Turpin dominated the Cards defensively with a 65-44 win. The two teams wuld meet again the following March in Rupp, with UK winning a much tighter regional semi-final.

Mr. Goggles himself

1985 (Rupp):   Memory-- Kenny Walker posterizes Billy Thompson    with a thunderous tomahawk dunk from the lane (they didn't call him "Sky" for nothing). UK would win the game, but the Cardinals got the last laugh by winning the NCAA title the following spring in Dallas.

1986 (Freedom Hall):   Memory-- Freshman Rex Chapman, the Boy King, wows  the Commonwealth with an explosive, dynamic 26 point performance that led UK to a 34 point win and had Sports Illustrated dubbing him "manger material."  Ironically, Chapman's performance may have meant the undoing of the team's chemistry, as a beaming Eddie Sutton famously called Chapman "my boy" at the post game presser.

The game-winner
1987 (Rupp):    Memory-- Cedric "Swoop" Jenkins' tip-in rescues the heavily favored but under-performing Cats from upset on their home floor. Easily Jenkins' best moment as a Cat, despite his rumored dominance in off-season pick up games.

Mashburn jams one home

1991 (Rupp):    Memory-- In a performance typical of Pitino's dominance     over Denny Crum, Jamal Mashburn and John Pelphrey combine for 51 points in a 103-89 win.

1996 (Freedom Hall):    Memory-- In a New Year's eve matchup, Derek   Anderson posterizes Nate Johnson and the Cats humiliate the Cards on their home court, 74-54. For my money, DA is one of the five most dynamic players to ever wear the blue and white, along with Rex Chapman, John Wall, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Kenny Walker.

1998 (Freedom Hall):    Memory-- In an otherwise ugly loss, Jamaal Magloire slams into Nate Johnson to prevent an exclamation point dunk at the buzzer, almost resulting in a brawl. Magloire may have been a thug, but he was OUR thug.

2001 (Rupp):      Memory-- In Rick Pitino's return to Rupp, Cliff Hawkins punctuates a Big Blue blowout with one of the nastiest crossover, ankle-breaking moves ever.

2004 (Freedom Hall):   Memory--After a dismal 16 point first half,  Tubby Smith seemed destined to drop his third straight to Pitino, not exactly something to endear him to the UK fan base. However, Patrick Sparks got white hot in the second half and pulled the Cats back, completing the rally and victory by drawing a foul in the final second on a three pointer from the corner, earning him three free throws (he hit them all, of course). Billy Packer later drew UK fan ire by suggesting Sparks travelled.
2006 (Freedom Hall):  Memory-- Freshman Jodie Meeks has his coming out party with 18 points on 4 threes to secure Tubby Smith his third straight over the coach he once seemed unable to beat.

2009 (Rupp Arena):    Memory-- In the much anticipated meeting of John Calipari and Rick Pitino , it was clear that the U of L coach planned to get physical with UK's hyper-talented squad. Chief in the Cards' sights was DeMarcus Cousins, the volatile and uber-skilled big man. After an early scrum that saw Cousins throw an elbow on a reclining U of L player (which amazingly didn't get him tossed), the big freshman put up a stat line filling 18 points and 18 rebounds in a rather ugly win.

2010 (Yum! Center):  Memory-- With cries of "Free Enes" surrounding the UK program, Josh Harrellson displayed his remarkable emergence that would at least partially make up for the absence of ineligible Turkish recruit Kanter. His 23 points and 14 boards spoiled U of L's first rivalry game in the newly christened Yum! Center. As my 16 year old daughter asked, "How did he get so randomly good?"
2011 (Rupp):  Memory-- Some wondered whether UK's one-and-done freshmen would "get" the rivalry with Louisville. Though he grew up in New Jersey, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played with the passion of a rural Kentuckian in a dominating performance of 24 pts and 19 boards to carry Cal and the Cats to their third straight over their rivals.

2012 Final Four (New Orleans):  Memory--Unprecedented intensity surrounded UK's matchup with UL in the Final Four. On their way to the win, and ultimately the national title, Anthony Davis' two nasty alley-oops--one with outstretched arms and the other one-handed--will be etched in my memory as typical of his dominating and charmed one year in blue.
 2014 Sweet Sixteen (Indianapolis)  Memory--Aaron Harrison buries a dagger from the corner with 40 seconds to go to give the Cats a lead they had seldom held throughout the game and would never relinquish, sending the defending champs to bitter defeat and the to-that-point-underachieving young Cats on to face Michigan in the regional final (where Harrison's heroics would only grow in magnitude). 

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