32 Years Since Last Vandy Win At Kentucky

By now, every Vanderbilt basketball fan must know that Vanderbilt has never beaten Kentucky at Rupp Arena. The last Vandy win over the Wildcats in Lexington occurred 32 years ago when Kentucky played their home games at Memorial Coliseum. The old gym was actually a better home court for the Blue Misters than the current one; it's just Vandy hasn't seemed to solve the mystery of Rupp Arena.

"We've Waited A Long Time For This One" exclaimed one VU fan.

There was a time when the Commodores went 31 years without a road win at Kentucky.  That all changed when Roy Skinner became coach at Vanderbilt.  In fact, in a 12-year period, Vanderbilt beat Kentucky in Lexington five times to go with seven additional victories in Memorial Gym.
 
Let's take a look at the monumental upset that started the success.  Monday, February 18, 1963, was a mild day in Nashville with temperatures in the mid-50's.  The weather forecast called for a cold front to pass through the city and bring snow later that night.
 
Vanderbilt likewise had begun the season playing rather well, but as of late, a shooting cold front had passed through town producing five conference losses for the Commodores.  As Vanderbilt made the trek up US Highway 31-E to US Highway 62, few basketball prognosticators gave the Gold Men a chance.  Kentucky was a consensus 8-point pick.
 
Vanderbilt had split its first 10 conference games and stood at 12-7 on the season.  Kentucky was not having a great campaign by their standards, but the ‘Cats were still in contention in the conference race at 6-4, two games behind 16-2 Auburn and 17-5 Mississippi State and one game behind 18-4 Georgia Tech (all three of them ranked in the top 10).
 
Earlier in the season in Nashville, Kentucky's star forward/center Cotton Nash had dominated Vandy for the third time in three career games against the Commodores.  Kentucky won 106-82.
 
Any serious thought of Vandy ending their long Lexington losing streak was eliminated in the prior game.  Senior guard John Russell, the best defender in the SEC and Vanderbilt's second leading scorer, had sustained a hip injury in a win over Tennessee two nights earlier.  He would not be available for this game.  In his place, sophomore John Ed Miller would get the start.  Up front, starting center Bob "Snake" Grace had twisted an ankle against the Vols and was not at full strength for the game.  Forward Jerry Hall had jammed a finger against the Vols and would play injured.  The only two healthy Vandy starters were forward Bob Scott and guard Roger Schurig.  Schurig was leading the team in scoring as a sophomore and had won four games with buzzer beaters.  Mike Gambill, Wayne Taylor, and Bob Hines were the contributing reserves.
 
Wildcat coach Adolph Rupp (right) decided to start Nash at center and go with a smaller, but quicker lineup.  Joining Nash were forward Roy Roberts and guards Scotty Baesler, Randy Deeken, and Randy Embry.  Don Rolfes would come off the bench when Nash moved from center to forward, while Terry Mobley would sub for the three guards. 
 
Vanderbilt opened the game with consecutive baskets to take a brief 4-0 lead.  The Commodores held onto that slim lead for 10 minutes, until a plethora of turnovers allowed Kentucky to tie and then forge ahead.  The Commodores might have been blown out in the first half if it weren't for the great job turned in by Hall.  Assigned to guard Nash, he kept the Wildcat star away from the basket and made it tough for him to get the ball.  On the offensive end, Hall tallied nine points while being knocked to the floor hard three separate times.  Already playing with an injured finger, he showed the fans of his home state just how tough he was.
 
Kentucky finished the half on a small run and led 33-30.  The second half started poorly for Vandy as turnovers continued to mount.  Kentucky couldn't cash in on multiple fast break opportunities, but they were able to score in their half-court offense, with Deeken and Roberts hitting multiple baskets.  The Wildcat lead swelled to nine points at 41-32 with just two minutes gone in the final period.
 
After a timeout, Vanderbilt began to carve into the lead.  Even though the Commodores couldn't get a big run of consecutive points going, thanks to yet more turnovers, the defense stiffened and kept Kentucky from scoring.  Slowly, the lead shrunk to seven, then five points.  Trailing 54-49 with nine minutes to go, the Vandy scoring run transpired.  Miller hit twice, followed by baskets from Schurig and Scott.  Vandy now led 57-54 with six and a half minutes to go.
 
Kentucky ended their drought with consecutive baskets to regain the lead, and the score continued to change hands or was tied for the rest of the night.  With one minute to go, Miller tied the game at 67-67 with a driving jumper.  At that point, Rupp called time and ordered his charges to play for one shot.  He stressed to his players not to make a bad pass or allow Schurig or Miller to steal the ball.
 
Kentucky in-bounded the ball with 50 seconds to go and began throwing it around the perimeter.  Deeken received a pass with less than 25 seconds to go to set up the final play.  As he began to drive toward the scoring zone, Vandy's Scott charged up from behind him and slapped at the ball while Deeken tried to dribble it.  He made enough contact to knock the ball free, but it was apparently headed straight for the sideline where Kentucky would retain possession.  However, Scott burst forward with great thrust and saved the ball before it went out of bounds.  Schurig immediately signaled for a timeout, and with 21 seconds to go, Vandy had the ball and a chance to pull off the upset.
 
In the huddle, everyone on both teams and most of the 11,800 in the stands knew who would get the ball for the final shot—the man who had already won four games on last second firings.  In the Wildcat huddle, Rupp emphasized to his players not to foul Schurig, but to double team him and make him pass to a teammate.  Skinner designed a play for Schurig to drive off a screen by Scott and take the open jumper. 
 
The horn sounded, and the referees blew the whistle to signal both teams back to the floor.  The ball was tossed into Schurig, who dribbled the ball up the floor slowly taking 10 seconds to get to the top of the key.  Scott set the pick on Deeken, and Schurig quickly accelerated around the screen.  Deeken was caught flat-footed, and Baesler had to foul to stop the open move. 
 
Schurig went to the line with nine seconds to go to attempt the one-an-one.  The first shot swished through the nets for the lead.  Then, the bonus shot swished as well, giving the Commodores a two-point edge.  Vandy applied token pressure to slow the advance of the ball.  Kentucky had just enough time for a shot and possibly a tip.  Deeken received the ball about 30 feet away from the basket and fired up a prayer; it wasn't answered, falling a little short.  Two hurried tips were tried, and they both missed.  The sweetest sound was a loud horn signaling the end of the game.  Just a half-second later, a third Wildcat tip fell through the bucket, but it didn't matter.
 
The Commodores hoisted Coach Skinner on their shoulders to take him to the locker room.  He made them stop long enough to shake Rupp's hand.  In the post-game interview, Skinner called it "The greatest ever" and said, "Every man played great."  Rupp had a different opinion about his team's play, calling his players "A bunch of gutless wonders."  A vociferous Vanderbilt fan who made the trip from Nashville represented Vandy fans everywhere by shouting out, "We've waited a long time for this one!"  31 years had indeed been long enough.  A drought like this one couldn't possibly happen again… or could it?
 
 
The ‘Dores placed four men in double figures.  Guards Schurig and Miller each hit for 16 points, with Schurig canning 10 of 10 free throws.  Hall added 15, while Scott scored 10.  Grace, slowed by the ankle injury, finished with only six points.  Hall's excellent defense held Nash well below his average with just 13 points.  Deeken led Kentucky with 16, while Roberts added 12.
 
Kentucky took 15 more field goal attempts than Vandy thanks to 28 Commodore turnovers.  The ‘Cats connected on just 23 of 73 shots for 31.5%, while Vandy hit on 25 of 58 for 43.1%. 
 
Skinner would pick up four more wins at Memorial Coliseum.  The 1965 SEC championship team tagged the worst ever home loss on Rupp at 97-79, led by Clyde Lee's record shattering scoring performance of 41 points to go with 17 rebounds.  The 1967 team worked their precision passing offense to perfection and shot lights out against Kentucky, winning 91-89 in overtime.  Bo Wyenadt hit a lay-up in the final seconds for that win.  Afterwards, Rupp compared that Vandy squad to his 1966 national runner up team.
 
In 1973, Skinner suspended starters Lee Fowler and Bill Ligon for curfew violations just before the Kentucky game.  The rest of the team came very close to going on strike and not taking the bus to Lexington.  They decided at the last minute to dedicate the game to their two teammates.  Terry Compton and Butch Feher combined for 41 points, and the Commodores connected on 25 of 31 free throws to down Kentucky 83-76.
 
In 1974, on their way to their second SEC title, Vandy used the shuffle offense in the final 20 minutes and demolished Kentucky 82-65, when they hit an unbelievable 22 of 27 shots in that second half to make a close game a blowout.  Jan Van Breda Kolff secured the conference player of the year award with one of the greatest single game performances in SEC history and the league's first official triple-double.  He finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots, most of this damage coming in the final half.
 
Tonight's Game
 
What do the computers have to say about tonight's game?  For this biggie, I am consulting all 14 ratings for which I have access.  12 of the 14 ratings call for the Wildcats to win a close ball game by one to five points.  One rating calls for Kentucky to win by nine, while one rating gives Vandy the edge by two.  The mean rating for this game calls for Kentucky to win by four points.  The standard deviation is rather small, meaning there is a consensus for this game.  Therefore, there is no need to apply weights to this mean.  Kentucky is the consensus pick to make it 32 in a row by four points.  Based on what I think a four-point game would look like, the predicted score is:
 
Kentucky 66  Vanderbilt 62
 
One note:  None of these computer ratings factor in the return of Randolph Morris.  These predictive ratings strictly pick games based on comparative scores up to this point in the season.  What effect Morris has in this game plays absolutely no part. 
 
From past history, the return of Morris doesn't necessarily mean Kentucky will be much improved.  While chances are good Kentucky will be better, there is a chemistry issue to consider.  Of course, the only chemistry Kentucky fans can think of after Saturday's debacle in Lawrence, Kansas, is the kind where nitric acid and sulfuric acid are mixed with glycerin; they'd like to blow up the video tape of that stinker.
 
Wednesday's SEC Games
(Using top 7 Computer Ratings)
 Florida       89             Mississippi State 70
 S. Carolina 58           Ole Miss            55
   Arkansas    72             LSU                   71
 Auburn      74          Alabama            68
  Tennessee  85            Georgia              72

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