27 and counting: This streak has gotten ugly

BrentVU takes a look at Vandy's perplexing 27-year losing streak at Kentucky's Rupp Arena. Vanderbilt travels to Lexington Wednesday night for 7 p.m. game against the Wildcats.

LEXINGTON, Ky.-- It is a streak that boggles the mind. It is a streak that has been going on so long that only a relative few, graying Commodore fans could tell you when it started.

We like to talk about that other "Streak"-- Vandy's streak of consecutive games with a made 3-point basket. That streak is a point of pride; this streak is a point of shame. And to put it in perspective, THIS streak had been going on for 12-1/2 years when the 3-point streak began.

Forget about the fact that Vandy has lost 17 straight games to the Big Blue. This streak is even more hideous, and more perplexing.

The sad fact of the matter is, Vanderbilt has lost 27 straight regular-season games to Kentucky in Lexington. TWENTY-SEVEN straight times now the Commodores have sent a team up here to Bluegrass country, and have come away losers.

Unbelievable. Over a quarter of a century. Vanderbilt hasn't beaten UK here since the NIXON ADMINISTRATION.

Vanderbilt hasn't beaten UK here since leisure suits were in style... since All in the Family was on TV... since Barry Manilow was actually considered hip.

Vanderbilt hasn't beaten UK in Lexington since Jan Van Breda Kolff was here. (Not as a coach. As a player.)

Vanderbilt hasn't beaten UK here since January 24, 1974-- which was, by the way, one of the most glorious, memorable wins in the school history. VBK had a triple-double, Vandy shot 82% in the second half, and Roy Skinner's Commodores, en route to an SEC championship, embarrassed Joe B. Hall's second UK squad in Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum, 82-65.

If I recall, they nearly fired Hall after that year, as Kentucky finished an uncharacteristic 13-13. But the molasses-tongued Hall survived, and the next season Kentucky moved into its spacious 23,000-seat downtown basketball palace, Rupp Arena. Ever since, it's been as though the basketball gods have said, ye shall pay the price for that unforgettable 1974 night.

How long has it been since Vandy beat UK in Lexington? If you go back to January 24, 1974, you can even find a Vandy football win over Tennessee.

NO, WAIT, MAKE THAT TWO OF THEM!

None of Vandy's current basketball players, of course, were even alive in 1974. In '74 Orlando "Tubby" Smith was coaching high school ball in Maryland... and Kevin Stallings, bless his heart, was in eighth grade.

The country has been through seven Presidents since Vanderbilt last won in Lexington, and Vanderbilt has been through seven coaches. (Kentucky's been through four.) In the interim Vandy's been to the NCAA six times and to the NIT twice. The Commodores have won the SEC once (1993), had three SEC Players of the Year, and seven first-team All-SEC players.

Yet none of them ever walked out of Rupp Arena a winner.

Vandy has beaten Kentucky ten times since 1974-- eight times in Nashville, and twice in the SEC Tournament. But (say it with me now) not at Rupp.

You'd think, wouldn't you, that somehow over the course of 27 seasons one Vandy team might have slipped up and gotten lucky-- but no. Whether it be Rupp Arena's aura... the crowd... the tradition... the refereeing... or just downright superior Kentucky teams... since 1974 the Commodores have always come up short.

The coaches change, the players change, but one thing stays consistent: Vanderbilt simply does not play well in this building. Rupp Arena seems to cast the same kind of voodoo on Vandy that Memorial Gym does upon most teams that visit Nashville.

OK, if you want to get technical, Vanderbilt HAS won two games inside Rupp Arena-- just not against Kentucky. The Dores beat Florida when the SEC Tournament was here in 1982, and Eddie Fogler's boys beat Alabama in the 1993 SEC Tourney. So yes, Vandy has won inside the Baron's edifice.

But not even brash Eddie Fogler could figure out a way whip the Cats at Rupp. Taking his well-disciplined teams up against a UK program weakened by probation in 1990-93, Fogler probably had the best chance to break the streak. Alas, Fogler went 0-4 agaisnt UK here. (His best team, the '93 team, got hammered 82-67 by Rick Pitino's first Final Four team.)

C. M. Newton, a former Wildcat player who would later become Kentucky's athletic director, went 0-8 at Rupp in his stint as Vandy's coach. VBK, who had made such magic here as a college senior, could never duplicate the magic as a coach-- he went 0-6 and never beat Kentucky anywhere. (The '97 game at Rupp was moved to Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum. Unfortunately though, it didn't change Vandy's luck.)

Roy Skinner finished his career with two losses here in '75 and '76. The F-Troop in '76 lost by one, 77-76. No other game in the string has been closer than 8 points.

It is a streak that endures into the twenty-first century. Kevin Stallings has won road games at every venue in the SEC East, except-- you guessed it-- Rupp, where he's 0-2. Wednesday night, he and the Commodores get a chance to get off the 27-year schneid.

It might not sem as bad if there were other teams having this problem. To be sure, every team struggles at Rupp-- the Wildcats are always good, and the house is always packed with rowdy partisans. But just this season alone the Cats have dropped home games to Georgia, Alabama and Western Kentucky. Over the last 15 years, every SEC team except Vandy-- even newcomers Arkansas and South Carolina-- has topped the Cats in Rupp at least once.

It is a streak that boggles the mind.

It is a streak that makes no sense.

And it is a streak that badly needs to come to an end.

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VANDERBILT AT KENTUCKY-- last 27 years

2001 - Kentucky 86, Vanderbilt 75

2000 - Kentucky 72, Vanderbilt 52

1999 - Kentucky 88, Vanderbilt 63

1998 - Kentucky 71, Vanderbilt 62

1997 - Kentucky 58, Vanderbilt 46 (Cincinnati)

1996 - Kentucky 101, Vanderbilt 63

1995 - Kentucky 81, Vanderbilt 68

1994 - Kentucky 107, Vanderbilt 82

1993 - Kentucky 82, Vanderbilt 67

1992 - Kentucky 80, Vanderbilt 56

1991 - Kentucky 58, Vanderbilt 50

1990 - Kentucky 100, Vanderbilt 73

1989 - Kentucky 70, Vanderbilt 61

1988 - Kentucky 81, Vanderbilt 74

1987 - Kentucky 65, Vanderbilt 54

1986 - Kentucky 73, Vanderbilt 65

1985 - Kentucky 75, Vanderbilt 58

1984 - Kentucky 67, Vanderbilt 46

1983 - Kentucky 82, Vanderbilt 63

1982 - Kentucky 67, Vanderbilt 58

1981 - Kentucky 80, Vanderbilt 48

1980 - Kentucky 106, Vanderbilt 90

1979 - Kentucky 96, Vanderbilt 70

1978 - Kentucky 72, Vanderbilt 59

1977 - Kentucky 113, Vanderbilt 73

1976 - Kentucky 77, Vanderbilt 76

1975 - Kentucky 109, Vanderbilt 84

1974 - Vanderbilt 82, Kentucky 65


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