[Link to All-Time Series History]
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 Kernal (February 12, 1926).
"Went over to Transy to see Eddie Diddle's Western Normal team whip the Pioneers the other night and was talking to Mr. Diddle about his team. During his conversation he drawled out something like 'I'd like to get a chance at Kentucky.' I came near to laughing in the man's face but just let it go in one ear and out the other and remarked to myself 'Applesauce.'"
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 Owenboro's Sports Arena and resuled 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.
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. Many of the Western players felt they had been overlooked or hadn't gotten the opportunity to attend UK, so the payback was extra sweet. Led by Jim McDaniels, Western went 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, but it was made more so 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 "Rupps 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
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 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
Last Updated February 24, 2002