|#4||Kyle Macy (L)||G||Sr.||6-3||180||Peru, IN (High)||All-American [Consensus (1st), AP (1st), UPI (1st), NABC (1st), USBWA (1st), Converse (1st), Sporting News (1st), Wooden (1st), Helms]; SEC Player of the Year [Associated Press & United Press International] ; All-SEC [First Team (AP, UPI & Coaches)]; All-SEC Tournament;|
|#31||Sam Bowie (L)||C-F||Fr.||7-1||230||Lebanon, PA (High)||All-SEC [First Team (Coaches); Second Team (AP); Third Team (UPI)]; All-SEC Tournament;|
|#40||Fred Cowan (L)||C-F||Jr.||6-8||205||Sturgis, KY (Union County)||All- NCAA Regional Team;|
|#23||Dwight Anderson||G-F||So.||6-3||175||Dayton, OH (Roth)||-|
|#52||Lavon Williams (L)||F||Sr.||6-6||210||Denver, CO (Manual)||-|
|#25||Jay Shidler (L)||G||Sr.||6-1||185||Lawrenceville, IL (High)||-|
|#32||Derrick Hord||G-F||Fr.||6-6||215||Bristol, TN (Tennessee)||-|
|#10||Dirk Minniefield (L)||G||Fr.||6-3||180||Lexington, KY (Lafayette)||-|
|#34||Chuck Verderber (L)||F||So.||6-6||220||Lincoln, IL (High)||Academic All-SEC;|
|#44||Charles Hurt (L)||F||Fr.||6-6||215||Shelbyville, KY (Shelby County)||-|
|#33||Tom Heitz (L)||F||Fr.||6-9||215||Hamilton, IN (High)||-|
|#15||Chris Gettelfinger (L)||G||Jr.||6-2||185||Knoxville, TN (Catholic)||-|
|#12||Bo Lanter (L)||G||So.||6-1||175||Versailles, KY (Woodford County)||-|
| Schedule | Player Statistics | Game Statistics |
Front Row (l to r): Assistant Coach Leonard Hamilton, Head Coach Joe B. Hall, Dirk Minniefield, Jay Shidler, Kyle Macy, Chris Gettelfinger, Bo Lanter, Dwight Anderson, Assistant Coach Dick Parsons, Assistant Coach Joe Dean, Jr.
Season Review - The Long Haul by Chris Cameron and Anne Charles (Kentuckian)
Coach Joe B. Hall thought he was dreaming. In his dream, he had just completed one of the most successful collegiate basketball recruiting attempts in history. He had inked a seven-foot-one-inch center who was considered the nation's top prep player; a lightning-fast guard who was named "Mr. Basketball" in his state after leading his high school team to the state championship; and three powerful forwards who practically re-wrote their high school record books.
But it was no dream; for Hall and his recruiting staff it was reality.
Sam Bowie of Lebanon, Pa., was the center, Hall's first seven-footer. Dirk Minniefield, whose Lexington home is just a few feet away from Rupp Arena, joined the Cats at guard. Muscular Charles Hurt from Shelbyville joined the pride of Bristol, Tenn., Derrick Hord, and Hamilton, Ind. all-stater Tom Heitz at forward positions.
Wildcat fans from coast to coast began hungering for another national championship. Letters from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Canada poured into UK's Sports Information office requesting photographs and autographs of their Wildcat idols. Joyce Baxter, Sports Information secretary, said, "We've had more letters in two months than we had all last year."
Thousands of anxious fans jammed gymnasiums in Owensboro and Harlan to get a sneak preview of the players they had heard so much about. Louisville's Freedom Hall and Lexington's own Memorial Coliseum were sold out for pre-season scrimmages that showcased Hall's efforts to combine experience with talented youth.
The Associated Press ranked UK number two in pre-season polls, while Indiana was number one. Although the optimism that seemed to surround the Cats was also present on the squad, Minniefield was a bit more cautious.
"It's going to be a long haul," he said, almost prophetically. He was right.
The Cats' first major assignment was to take on the Duke Blue Devils in the first Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Springfield, Mass. Duke, ranked number three by AP, started the Cats' season off on a sour note, defeating them 82-76 in overtime.
Freshman center Bowie, however, emerged from the contest a victor. In his first collegiate performance, Bowie was pitted against Duke's Mike Gminski who, at six-feet-11-inches and 250 pounds was considered one of the nation's finest centers. Bowie left Springfield with 22 points and 11 rebounds, compared to Gminski's 21 points rebounds.
The next phase of the long haul took the Cats to the nation's 49th state to participate in the Great Alaskan Shootout." The Cats defeated Bradley, Alaska, and Iona in that competition, bringing the "shootout" trophy back to Lexington before regular season of play had even begun.
After resting for nearly a week, the Cats entered Rupp Arena for the first time in the season, taking on Baylor. For the five freshmen on the squad, the game was an event to remember for a lifetime. "I've known about the Kentucky crowd ever since I was a kid, and they didn't let me down," said Minniefield. Minniefield didn't let the crowd down, either. Mid-way through the second half, he lofted an alley-oop pass to Bowie, who ignited the crowd with a two-handed dunk.
Macy, who later in the season was named the nation's top free throw shooter, was awarded the game ball when he broke Louie Dampier's 1967 UK record for most consecutive free throws.
After the Cats romped over the Bears 80-46, Baylor coach Jim Haller said, "When Kentucky really puts it all together-and I know this is a big statement-they could have one of the best teams America has ever seen."
"I hope he's right," Macy said.
The same week, the Cats ran off with a 126-81 victory over South Carolina before narrowly escaping with a 57-56 win over Kansas.
But the long haul had only just begun.
UK's next opponent was number one ranked Indiana. A record crowd of 23,798 howling fans filled Rupp Arena to the brim. At the beginning of the game, Indiana threatened to dominate. Down by as much as 13 in the first half, the Cats came back to upset the Hoosiers, 69-58.
Sophomore Dwight Anderson was credited with turning the game around. "Getting blown out at home, well, I just couldn't see that," he said. Six-foot three-inch Anderson soared to give UK the momentum with a rim-rattling dunk.
Following the game, Jay Shidler said, "This team is special because of the over-all talent. The freshmen are coming in and doing a good job."
"You have to give the team a lot of credit," said an elated Coach Joe. B. Hall after the game. "The way they came back was incredible."
After handing Georgia a 95-69 defeat at the Omni in Atlanta, UK came home to host their own Invitational Tournament. Defeating California 78-52 in the first round, the Cats faced nationally ranked Purdue (who earlier defeated Southern Methodist) for the championship.
Macy, who once sported Purdue's black and gold uniform, engineered a rally that secured the UK victory. With UK leading by only one point and one second to go, Purdue's Keith Edmonson got control of the ball and headed for the basket. Almost miraculously, Macy hooked it away to ice the win. In an unusual display of emotion, a huge grin flashed across Macy's face as he threw the ball toward the ceiling.
Minniefield's prediction of a long haul became hauntingly real when the Wildcats suddenly suffered a triple loss. Two days after Christmas, Hall announced that Anderson had left the team for "personal reasons." The shock caused by this announcement was compounded when Hall added that Bowie and Minniefield would be suspended from the upcoming Notre Dame game for violation of "well-established training rules."
Entering the annual match-up with the "Fighting Irish," the Cats were considered underdogs after losing the three players, even though they had been ranked higher than Notre Dame all year.
Rather than let the problems affect them negatively, the Cats used it as a catalyst to take victory number 11 by a score of 86-80. Bowie and Minniefield watched from the sidelines in street clothes. "I think we were the biggest cheerleaders out there tonight," said Bowie.
"This has to be the best," said Hall after the contest, pointing out the victory was sweetened by the fact the Cats had been able to accomplish the feat without Bowie and Minniefield.
For the second time in three years, Macy was awarded the Bernie Shively award as the game's most valuable player. Scoring 21 points, Macy also handed out six assists while committing only one turnover in the nationally televised contest.
After the successful game with Notre Dame, the Cats entered what was termed their annual "midseason slump." Escaping with a 67-65 win over Auburn with the help of Macy's last-second jumper, the long haul seemed to be getting tougher.
UK suffered defeat number two at the hands of arch-rival Tennessee. Trailing throughout most of the contest, the Cats lost 49-47. They came back to defeat Ole Miss the same week by a score of 79-73.
The biggest embarrassment of the season came at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Losing 78-64 in their worst Rupp Arena defeat since 1976, the Cats fell deeper into the slump.
"It is total for me and for the players," said Hall. "They don't know why these things happen. I have not seen it this bad since I've been coaching here," he said.
With the Cats in their slump, taking on Florida at infamous" Alligator Alley" wasn't a prospect Hall was looking forward to. "It has been a scene of a lot of tough ball games, many upsets, some very good play by Kentucky teams and some very bad playas well," he said.
But the force was with the Cats in the form of Freddie Cowan who scored 16 points, as UK escaped the Gators' jaws 76-63.
The road smoothed out a bit the following week, as the Cats defeated Vandy 106-90 in Lexington and then traveled to Mississippi State where they strolled to an 89-69 win over the Bulldogs.
UK's regained momentum carried them through another contest, as they defeated a stubborn Georgia team, 56-49, within the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. Bowie, one of the hardest hit in the recent slump, recovered to score 18 points and grab ten rebounds.
Another stumbling block was only a step away, however, as the LSU Tigers roared into town. The Cats were cold in the first half, shooting only 39 percent, and ran out of steam on a late comeback as they were handed their fourth loss of the season, 60-65. The LSU victory pulled the Tigers into a four-way tie with Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee for the SEC lead.
"We wanted to make UK playa man-to-man because we knew we might have trouble with their 1-3-1 on their home floor," LSU Coach Dale Brown said.
Coach Hall took the blame for the loss, saying he might have pressured his players too much. "We played like a poorly-coached team and it's my fault. I just haven't given them the confidence down the stretch."
The deflated Cats then had to face Auburn on the road, but managed to pull it out by a mere two points. "Fleet Feet" Minniefield connected on a last second shot similar to Macy's game-clencher in the earlier Auburn contest. The 64-62 win over Auburn, meager as it was, served to fire the Cats up for the big contest with arch-rival Tennessee.
Hot tempers and a vocal crowd filled Rupp Arena when the "Big Orange" rolled in. Williams and UT's Nash came to blows and both were evicted from the game. Six UK players sat helpless on the bench with five fouls in the closing minutes but the reserves hung tough to give the Cats a satisfying 83-75 victory.
"I was mighty proud of the way we played tonight. It was the best effort we've had since December," Hall said.
The greatly improved Ole Miss Rebels came to Lexington riding a wave of momentum, having lost only one game (to LSU) in their last seven outings.
UK was leading 33-28 at half-time, then stormed out of the locker room to score 14 unanswered points in the opening minutes of the second half. The Cats took the game 86-72, with Bowie leading the battle of boards as UK out-rebounded Mississippi 41-22.
The Cats then trekked to Tuscaloosa with revenge on their minds to take on 'Bama. UK chalked up an important SEC victory in a come-from-behind 72-63 win.
Freshly inspired, the Cats stomped Florida 95-70 at Rupp and had an easy time with Vanderbilt, as they defeated the Commodores 91-73 in Nashville.
UK's long haul then took them to Las Vegas to confront Nevada in a nationally televised contest. "Kool Kyle's" long range shooting unlocked a tie late in the game to ice a 74-69 Kentucky victory.
"We knew it was going to be run and gun so we tried to cut down on them defensively, and then work hard for baskets," Bowie said.
The Cats' last home game of the season pitted them against Mississippi State as seniors Macy, Shidler, and Williams made their final regular season home appearance.
The seniors each received several minutes of thunderous ovation from adoring Big Blue fans in pre-game ceremonies. After running through huge paper hoops as they were introduced, the seniors were presented plaques by Athletic Director Cliff Hagan and UK Student Government President Mark Metcalfe. A tearful crowd then joined in singing "My Old Kentucky Home" as a farewell tribute to three of their all-time favorites. A sign draped in a corner read "Kentucky will never be the same."
The Cats bowed out in fine style as they defeated the Bulldogs 71-65, leaving UK in a tie with LSU for the SEC crown. Only the game with the Tigers at Baton Rouge remained to determine the results of the regular season.
After the game, UK President Dr. Otis Singletary cornered Macy in the locker room. Reflecting upon Macy's three years of phenomenal success and popularity' at UK, Singletary said, "Kyle, thank you. What else can I say?"
Thus the stage was set for the season finale with LSU. Since both teams had identical SEC records (14-3), the game at Baton Rouge would decide the conference champion.
After forty minutes of trading baskets, the game went into overtime. LSU gained a two-point lead after stalling nearly two minutes. Then, Sam Bowie evened the score.
As thousands of devoted Kentucky fans perched on the edges of their seats, LSU stalled, hoping to take the last shot. Then came a key five-second violation against LSU which gave UK the ball. With less than five seconds remaining, Kyle Macy took a 22-foot jumper and hit nothing but the net. For the 32nd time in the 47-year history of the Southeastern Conference, the Kentucky Wildcats were the champions.
Later that night, a pep rally was held at Memorial Coliseum to honor the new SEC champions. A group of girls carried signs that read "Kyle Macy for President." Former Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler lead the crowd of nearly 10,000 jubilant Wildcat supporters in singing "My Old Kentucky Home."
The regular season portion of the long haul ended with a sweet victory for the Cats. Sportscaster Cawood Ledford said it best.
"Last year when LSU played Alabama," he said, "they stopped the game with about a minute remaining to unroll a banner proclaiming themselves the SEC champs. I understand they had the same thing planned for today."
As a proud smile flashed across his face, Ledford proclaimed, "That damned banner's still there."
Coach Joe B. Hall knew how to count to eight. Following his eighth regular season as the UK mentor, Hall knew exactly what was ahead: his Wildcats could possibly play eight more games, and could afford but one loss (that coming in the SEC tournament).
So, in the middle of winter, in the middle of Alabama, Hall and the Cats began their post-season countdown. At the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, the second annual renewal of the SEC Tournament began. Sam Bowie's blastoff in the first game, against Auburn, seemed to inspire the rest of the team. Bowie scored 19 points in the 69-61 UK victory, despite suffering a slightly injured knee due to a fall during the game. Kyle Macy joined Bowie on the injured list. Macy, complaining of breathing difficulty, still managed to score 10 points in the win.
The following day, Macy was taken to a local hospital for an examination concerning his mysterious flu-like illness. Although doctors could find nothing wrong, Macy still suffered symptoms in UK's second game against Ole Miss. Although Macy scored only six points, all in the second half, Sam Bowie's season-high 27 points lifted UK past Ole Miss 70-67.
Thus, the count was decreased from eight to six; the stage was set for the tournament final, pitting UK against LSU for the third time in 1979-80. Having lost the regular-season championship by two points less than a week earlier, LSU's Tigers were out for revenge.
LSU dominated the contest from the beginning. "It just seemed we could never get over the hump," said Macy after the game. Although the recovering Macy, along with Bowie, scored 20 points, Most Valuable Player DeWayne Scales poured in 26 points for an 80-78 LSU victory.
But, all was not lost for the Cats. The count now down to five, NCAA pairings were announced. UK was seeded number one in the Mideast region to the dismay of several coaches, as the Mideast finals were scheduled to be held at Rupp Arena.
UK's first Mideast game, however, was at Western Kentucky University's Diddle Arena against Florida State. The Cats won 97-78 in a contest that was actually decided in the first six minutes of play. UK erased a 2-0 Florida State lead with a 10-0 blitz and dominated the rest of the game. Macy scored 16 points, pushing ahead of Rick Robey as UK's 12th all-time leading scorer.
The count was down to four with four games left for another NCAA championship. Sights were high, and perhaps over-anxious fans expected too much of the young crop of Cats. Several Lexington stores began selling shirts imprinted with the slogan "Kentucky-NCAA Champs 80." But it wasn't to be.
In a rematch of the season opener, UK met the Duke Blue Devils, this time at Rupp Arena. The Cats trailed Duke during the first 39 minutes, 23 seconds of play, but managed to tie the score at 54. Duke's Gene Banks hit a free throw with 22 seconds left, then UK worked the clock down and called time-out with nine seconds to go.
The most important countdown was at hand. In what many fans considered the longest nine seconds of the season, Macy took a shot and missed, Dirk Minniefield swatted the rebound to Cowan, and Cowan winged a desperation shot. But it was too late; time had run out on the Cats.
Joe Hall's standing eight count had been halted abruptly after five games. After the loss, ticket scalpers were counted out, as NCAA officials counted the empty seats at Rupp Arena. Lexington stores counted unsold "NCAA Champs 80" shirts and reduced them to half-price. But Joe B. Hall counted his blessings.
"It's been a great year, surpassing anything we expected," Hall said. "We just weren't ready for it to end tonight."