Kentucky and Kansas have battled numerous times over the years. But I only remember a couple of UK-KU matchups really well prior to last Saturday night’s showdown between traditional powerhouses.
The rest of the encounters in the series, for the most part, have been a blur, but I unfortunately do recall watching undermanned Kentucky’s horrible 150-95 loss at Lawrence on television during coach Rick Pitino’s first year in Lexington.
The first one that I covered as a sportswriter was the 1978 miracle performed by Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats in a wild, stunning victory over Ted Owens’ Jayhawks at Rupp Arena. UK trailed by six points with 30 seconds remaining but somehow fought back in winning the overtime classic. I still have a yellowed newspaper copy of my front-page article of that exciting contest.
That Kentucky team, led by junior star Kyle Macy and freshman sensation Dwight Anderson, went on to finish the 1978-79 campaign with a 19-12 mark, including a first-round overtime loss to Clemson in the NIT at Rupp Arena.
The other one that I remember is the 2012 national championship game in New Orleans when Kentucky defeated Kansas 67-59 before a crowd of 70,913 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ending its 14-year drought of the NCAA title. That was a big highlight of my writing career.
Kentucky freshman Malik Monk, shown here warming up prior to the Kansas game Saturday night, is leading the SEC in scoring with a 21.7-point average. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught)