Texas Western/ Kentucky: What About the Game Itself?

b-ballWhat’s gotten lost in the imperative that is the historical in hindsight relevance of that culture shifting NCAA title tilt in College Park in ’66 is . . . the game itself.

For years, when the topic of Texas Western’s “upset” of Kentucky comes up, to impose some sort of hoops veneration it would seem apparent, I have lorded over those listening, my attendance in Cole Fieldhouse that night.

Then, as I did just the other day in this space, I’ll offer that I do not recall any buzz at the time about the all black starting lineup for the Miners vs. the all white squad of the Wildcats. I certainly don’t remember seeing any Confederate flags in the gym, as fictionalized in a recent movie about Don Haskins and that championship team of his.

I do remember whom I went to the game with, some frat brothers. I do remember that three of us went to a museum that afternoon in D.C. — the Phillips Collection, where I stood mesmerized by Renoir’s “Luncheon at the Boating Party” — while the our pal went to play the ponies at Pimlico.

I recall seeing Louie Dampier and a couple of teammates walking around the team hotel that afternoon in shirts and ties.

But, but, but . . . I recall very little about the actual games that weekend — it wasn’t yet called the Final Four — and how they were contested.

The games were contested in an honest to Betsy basketball facility, the then home of Maryland’s Terrapins, seating 14, 250.

#1 ranked Kentucky beat # 2 ranked Duke in one semi-final. I do recall that sophomore Larry Conley was sick with the flu, and Adolph Rupp let him take himself out and put himself back in the game.

Texas Western beat Jerry Chambers and Utah in the other semi, of which I have zero recall.

As for the championship game itself, my only memory is seeing Bobby Joe Hill strip Louie Dampier a couple of times in succession, and realizing UK was toast.

Now, it all gets cleared up.

ESPN, actually living up to its assertion as The World Wide Leader, is televising a replay tonight (Wednesday 3/30) at 7:30 EDT.

I can’t wait.

So locked in am I that I downloaded the box score.

Some of the stats are fascinating.

UK lost the battle of the boards by only two, 33-35.

Kentucky fired 21 more FG attempts than Texas Western, 70, but only connected on 27 for 38% shooting. The Miners were 22/49 from the field, 45%.

The Cats committed 11 more fouls than the victors. The disparity at the line was striking. UK was 11/13. Texas Western hit 28 of 34. That’s +17 at the charity stripe in a seven point 72-65 Miners’ W.

There were only ten assists total between the teams, six by the Wildcats. Dampier and Pat Riley each tallied 19 for UK. Conley was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 10.

Bobby Joe Hill scored 20 for Texas Western, Orsten Artis, 15, and David “Big Daddy D” Lattin, whose grandson will be suiting up for the Oklahoma Sooners this weekend, netted 16, while snaring 9 rebounds.

Through the half century since the game, we’ve read and debated its cultural significance, the racial aspects attendant, and the legacies of Rupp and Haskins.

Tonight we get to see, and consider, the game itself.

Can’t wait.

— Seedy K


6 thoughts on “Texas Western/ Kentucky: What About the Game Itself?

  1. What I remember is how shocked I was that ky. lost after going into the game thinking that they were a lock after beating Duke in the semi’s. But after the game, I believed that Texas Western was much better than the Cayuts and would beat them on a regular basis if the teams played a best of 7.

    They were much too fast and physical for Adolf’s Meat Tenderizers.

    I know the Blew mantra was that illness was the reason for the defeat. But I suspect that the speed, strength and skill of the Miners is what really made the Wildcats sick.

  2. Well, as I mentioned in the piece, Conley was real sick. And, they played consecutive nights. So he might have been off his feed. Scored 10 on 4/9 FG and 2/2 FT. 8 rebounds, and an assist. Fouled out. Don’t recall any of the others being sick. Except Adolph Rupp after the game, when he had no kind words for his team, and defamed the winners.

  3. Well I was one of those frat bros in attendance and I’m pretty sure the black/white thing was a big time part of the game. The first play of the game is etched in my memory as evidence of that. On TW’s first possessionBig Daddy Lattin drove the baseline and dunked over Riley. In today’s parlance he posterized him. Whoa,I thought. This is gonna be for real. And of course successive pickpockets by Hill on Dampier showed Texas Western’s quickness edge. And Conley was whiter then a sheet, he looked terrible. But Chuck I think you “misremembered” the racial aspect. I don’t remember going to Pimlico but I’ll take your word on that though the lifestyle suggested by that Renoir has always seemed pretty cool. Maybe I was there and not gambling on ponies at Pimlico. We are all getting hazy about that distant past.

  4. For starters I remember a lot of newsprint (no ESPN back then) mentioning the black-white angle. Loyola had won it all with four black starters and a white point guard. Several people intimated that while they had four blacks the floor general, the intelligent one, was of course white.

    And a second note. I was the sports editor of my college paper that year. A few years back a frat bro mailed me a page of the paper because we were featured in it. I flipped over the page and lo and behold there was my column on the upcoming Final Four. I was shocked to read what I wrote which was that Texas Western would absolutely beat Duke in the semifinal game and that they would probably beat UK in the championship game. I didn’t even remember writing that. Wish I had bet on it.

  5. TW didn’t play Duke in the semis. Kentucky beat the Blue Devils, and the Miners beat Utah.

    1. Let me clarify. I wrote that before the semifinal games and meant that if Texas Western played Duke they were a sure thing. And if they played UK they should win. I never gave a thought to them losing to Utah.

      Additionally watching the replay I was struck by two things regarding the announcer (Walt Sullivan?). He either was doing simultaneous radio and TV broadcasting or he was so schooled in doing radio play by play that he didn’t realize TV viewers could see who was passing the ball to whom etc. and called it as if he was doing radio. Also towards the end of the game he said something about Texas Western being so disorganized or a similar word that they were hard to guard. It struck me as a racial slur regarding play ground undisciplined style of play. They were anything but.

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