Kentucky-Western Kentucky All-Time Series Results

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E.A. Diddle
The first game between Kentucky and Western Kentucky did not occur until 1971 when they squared off in the NCAA Tournament in Georgia. Up to that time, the two never played despite the fact that UK's Adolph Rupp and Western's E.A. Diddle had each created a powerful basketball program Rupp was well known for not liking to schedule in-state schools, believing that if UK won, they wouldn't receive any credit (no matter how good their competition was) and if they lost, it could erode UK's stature both inside and outside the Commonwealth. Kentucky's in-state opponents steadily shrunk after Rupp took over the head coaching position. Besides some games against local armed services teams during the war years, Rupp never again scheduled in-state teams for regular season games after 1940. Diddle would have loved to compete against UK during those times, however the option wasn't made available to him.

As early as the mid-20's, Diddle was looking to match-up against UK. From the student column, written by 'Hoover' in the Kentucky Kernel (February 12, 1926).

Coach Diddle and Coach Rupp sit next to each other at the 1940 Kentucky High School basketball tournament

According a story related on a Western Kentucky discussion site (Hilltopper Haven, November 2001), in 1942 well after the season was over, there was proposed a game between UK and Western to be played in Louisville to benefit the War Effort. UK had already played such a charity game that March, when they competed against a strong team from the Great Lakes Naval Station in Louisville's Armory and had then gone on to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Apparently due to Rupp's wishes, the proposed game never materialized.

In 1949, after the collegiate eligibility of many of the "Fabulous Five" players was up, the team played a number of exhibition games across the region. The most anticipated match was against former Western stars in Odie Spears, Duck Ray, Johnny Oldham and many others. The game was held in the Armory in Louisville. Led by Wah Wah Jones and Alex Groza, the former UK stars ran away with the game 80-65. The teams met three more times that summer and resulted in Kentucky wins, despite attempts on the part of the Western stars to bolster their ranks with the likes of Louisville star Jack Coleman, West Virginia Fred Schaus and others. The second game was held in Owensboro's Sports Arena and resulted in an identical final score 80-65. The final game was held in Lexington outdoors at the Lexington Trotting Track. The former Olympians from UK braved the wet weather and held on to win a tight game by going into a stall, 51-42.

It is known that after this, other exhibitions were played between some UK and Western players (among them All-Americans Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey (UK) and Tom Marshall, Art Spoelstra (WKU), presumably after their eligibility was already up, in the middle 1950s.

Game-by-Game Summary

That first real game in 1971 matched what looked on paper to be two equally regarded teams (with WKU ranked #7 in the nation and UK ranked #8). Western ran away with the game in a blowout which demoralized UK and Rupp.

"C'mon in boys," said Rupp to the Western players as they entered the UK locker-room after the game. Despite the humiliating loss, Rupp was gracious to the Western players as he shook their hands and said, "You had quite a game. Now don't let us down." Added assistant coach Joe Hall, "We'll be pulling for you." Led by Jim McDaniels, Western did go on to the Final Four that year.

Jim McDaniels and Johnny Oldham speak to the press

[Boxscore] - 1971 NCAA Tournament

That first game between Kentucky and Western was a highly anticipated game, as many of the Western players felt they had been overlooked or hadn't gotten the opportunity to attend UK. For them payback was extra sweet.

But beyond the game itself, the matchup was made more interesting because of near-misses which occurred leading up to the match. Five years earlier, the two programs could have met in the NCAA's, however Western lost to a Cazzie Russell-led Michigan squad late in the game on a disputed play. That Western team had some fantastic players with Greg Smith, Clem Haskins, Dwight Smith and Wayne Chapman (UK's Rex Chapman's father). The Kentucky team was Rupp's beloved "Rupp's Runts," led by Louie Dampier and Pat Riley, who were ranked #1 in the country despite being severely undersized. The Runts were able to overcome Michigan, then beat #2 Duke, only to fall to Texas Western in the national finals.

The 1966 Hilltoppers came one game short from a match-up with Kentucky

The year prior to the 1971 match, UK and Western again found themselves in the same bracket but failed to meet when Artis Gilmore and Jacksonville beat Western in the NCAA's. Jacksonville went on to beat #1 ranked UK on their way to the Final Four.

The second game played between the two programs also came about due to the NCAA [noticing a pattern ?, the NCAA has always been well known for trying to match natural rivals who are reluctant to play against each other] placing UK and Western in the 1986 Charlotte subregional. Former WKU great Clem Haskins was at the helm and had a chance to make up for the missed opportunity in 1966, but despite Kannard Johnson leading the charge with 20 points, it still wasn't enough to overcome an incredible shooting performance by UK's All-American Kenny Walker, who finished with 34 points on the night.

[Box Score] - 1986 NCAA Tournament

The next two games were scheduled in the early 1990's after Rick Pitino became UK's coach and UK's philosophy toward playing in-state opponents took a 180 degree turn. One of Pitino's protege's, Ralph Willard was starting a head coaching stint at WKU so there was extra incentive to schedule some games between the two schools. Short of scheduling a full home and home series, the two agreed to play one game in Lexington and the other in Louisville's Freedom Hall. Despite WKU putting up a competitive fight, UK came away with the win both times.

[Box Score] - 1990-91
[Box Score] - 1991-92

Jamal Mashburn finished the break with a dunk during the 1990 game in Louisville

Some may remember that in 1993, UK and Western were again slated to meet each other in Charlotte in the NCAA's, if Western could get past a tough Florida State squad with Charlie Ward, Doug Edwards, Sam Cassell and a young Bob Sura and UK beat Wake Forest with Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress. While UK held up their part of the bargain by annihilating Wake, Western put up a heroic fight and took the highly regarded Seminoles into overtime before succumbing, which prevented a rematch in Charlotte.

In 2001, Western was led by a young coach in Dennis Felton and made its first trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky in the first round of the NABC Tournament. Kentucky was highly regarded in the preseason (ranked #4), yet Western also expected a great year, in no small part to their preseason All-American center Chris Marcus. The Hilltoppers pulled away in the second half and with Kentucky shooting 34% from the field, the Wildcats were never able to make a run. Western ended up winning the game by 12 points, led by David Boyden's 15 points and 13 points from Marcus.

[Box Score] - 2001-02

Chris Marcus and Marvin Stone tip off a new season in Rupp Arena


Ed 'Mule' Diddle at Centre
One other sidenote concerning this rivalry is that while Diddle never coached against UK in a regulation game, he did play against UK quite a number of times when he was a student-athlete at Centre College in the late teens and early 20's, where he was captain of the team. At the time, Centre was a powerhouse in both basketball and football. Diddle, nicknamed "Mule", played alongside "Bo" McMillin for a number of those years in both sports. Judging from the newspaper accounts at that time, McMillin was generally regarded as one of the finest athletes ever produced by the state up to that time and went on to become a highly respected football coach.

One humorous story worth reading talks about Diddle's tactics while a UK player was shooting at the foul line.


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Page written by Jon Scott. Please with any corrections or additional information.
Last Updated February 24, 2002