- Monday, December 23 1935 -
Pittsburgh - 17 (Head Coach: Harold Carlson)
Kentucky - 35 (Head Coach: Adolph Rupp)
|J. Rice Walker||0||0||0||0||0|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 22, Pittsburgh 2
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Berea 58 - 30|||||New York University 28 - 41|
Game Writeup - by Neville Dunn, Lexington Herald
Cats Upset Vaunted Pittsburghers, 35 to 17
Panthers, Outclassed by Rupp's Quintet; Carlisle Top Scorer for Victors
A pack of Panthers, especially of the Pittsburgh variety should be a 1 to 10 shot to whip a gang of Wildcats in anybody's pit, but it didn't turn out that way last night in the University of Kentucky gymnasium.
Coach Adolph Rupp, the old maestro of Kentucky basketball, pulled the magic wand out of his sleeve again, waved over his blue-clad scrappers and when the smoke to battle cleared away, the Wildcats, panting and somewhat bleary-eyed, but as happy as a kid who still believes in Santa Claus, were at top of the heap, 35 to 17. Thus Kentucky made its annual splash into the national basketball picture.
-Pittsburgh coming to Lexington with a reputation for goal-shooting prowess as heavy as the smoke back home, found the man-to-man defense the Kentuckians stuck in their path as torturous as a path up a mountain, and they limped off the floor badly beaten and badly outclassed. After the game, Dr. H. C. Carlson, the jovial and widely known mentor of the Panthers, heaped praise on the Wildcats and at the same time apologized because his boys played a "poor game."
"Your Kentucky team is a nice ball club. They looked much better to me tonight than did Northwestern," he said.
Northwestern defeated the Panthers by eight points, that defeat being the only one Pittsburgh had suffered prior to last night on its current invasion of the Middlewest and South on a Christmas holiday tour..
Wildcats Too Good
Although Pittsburgh might have played a bad game as their coach said they did, the 2,000-odd Wildcat supporters present wondered if it would have made any difference in the final result if they had played their best. The Wildcats lined up for the first tip-off with determination shining in their eyes and they ripped and tore at the Panthers with a vim that that would have subdued almost any outfit. When the first half ended, Kentucky was way out in front with 22 points and Pittsburgh was way out on a limb with two. These noteworthy two points, tallied on a field goal, was not recorded to Pittsburgh's account until after the first eight minutes of the game had been played and Kentucky had run up its scoring column to 17. Appropriately enough a lad named Spotavich was the first to find the range for the Panthers. He scored a bull eye from the region of the 17-foot line.
Pittsburgh's famed "figure eight" offense was pretty to look at but very shy producing goals. The Wildcats stuck to their men like leeches and whenever the figure eight business ended up with a theoretical field goal in the bag, there wasn't any field goal because there were a couple of Wildcats in the way.
Use Zone Defense
The Panthers used a zone defense and this must have pleased the Wildcats very much. At any rate, they zoomed it to pieces in the first half and did tolerably well with it in the second period, even after the desperate Panthers sent their forwards down the floor to dog the Wildcat guards.
Coach Carlson constantly experimented with his lineup, vainly trying to hit an deal combination. None worked. The Cats were complete masters of the situation throughout and when they pulled an out-of-bounds play for an easy crip shot, the Panthers were about ready to call it a night. Pittsburgh looked like Pumpkin Center on that play.
Theodore Roderick, the captain, never gave up, however, and he drove his men to the limit. The black thatched Pittsburgh leader, the smallest man on his team, hawked the ball from the moment he entered the game as a substitute in the first half until the final bell and he was easily the outstanding player of the Pittsburghers.
Takes No Chances
Coach Rupp did not take any chances and he called on six men to carry the brunt of the Wildcats' responsibilities. When Ralph Carlisle, the offensive sparkplug of the Blue, accumulated three personal fouls in the first half, Coach Rupp sent in Jim Goforth at guard and shifted Warfield Donohue to forward. This combination held its own for the remainder of the first half, but at the beginning of the second period, when Pittsburgh pushed headlong into the Wildcats' fortifications and began to hit the basket, Coach Rupp sent Carlisle back into the fray.
Immediately, the Wildcats started playing smoothly again. Their defense, tightened up by the shifting of Donohue back to work with Andy Anderson, functioned like it had in the first half, and the offense accelerated with a spurt. Thus, in view of this turn of events, it is safe to say that Carlisle's playing and Carlisle's presence last night had much to do with the Wildcats fines showing. When he finally left the game late in the second half on four personals - the only player to make such an exit - Pittsburgh's cause was hopeless and it didn't matter. The game ended with Goforth back in the games with Ellington and Walker subbing for a couple of other Wildcats . . .
Game Recollection from Big Blue Machine by Russell Rice (Strode Publishers, 1976)
One of the fine teams UK met early in the 1935-36 season was Pittsburgh, which featured a "figure eight" offense that Dr. H.C. Carlson, the Panther coach, had made famous nationally. The object was to keep the entire team in perpetual motion, giving the defensive men no time to get set, and striking with what was considered furious speed in those days. There were times when Pitt kept the ball moving at top speed for as long as 15 minutes without taking a shot.
"Doc wrote me and said they'd like to pick up a game on the way to the Sugar Bowl," Rupp said. "I didn't know a thing about 'Figure Eight,' but I did know that Pitt was regarded right up there with Notre Dame, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue, Kansas, and other outstanding teams in the nation. It was a chance for us to 'break the barrier,' so we gave them $300 to come here."
En route to New Orleans, Carlson also scheduled games with Butler and Xavier. After watching the game in the Butler Field House, Rupp had his assistant Len Miller drive him back to the hotel where they were to spend the night.
"Pitt absolutely tore Butler apart," he recalled. "I told Len, 'Get the car. I'm not going to sleep after that game. I've got my work cut out for me.'"
They arrived in Lexington about 4 a.m., and Rupp still could not sleep. Finally he came up with the idea of virtually zoning the cutter on the Figure Eight. When Pitt sent a man out to screen, and the cutter went around the screen, Rupp temporarily abandoned his man-to-man defense and had his defender make an automatic switch on the cutter.
The move worked so well in the first half that Pitt only scored two points while UK was tallying 22 points. Rupp cleared his bench in the second half, holding the final margin to 35-17.
"I didn't want to crush Doc," he said. "It sure wouldn't look good to go to the Sugar Bowl with a whipping like we were inflicting on them in the first half."
The next day he and Mrs. Rupp took a box of oranges, bananas and cookies to the train station for the Pitt players. Carlson had purchased 10 little elephant pins and attached one to each boy's shoulder. After he took a picture of Rupp and players, he told them, "An elephant never forgets. I want you to never forget the humiliation you got here in Lexington. I'm going to make each of you a copy of this picture to be sure you won't forget."