Hell in the Hall – Louisville Sports Blog

Dedicated to the joyful noise of the Card faithful

The Original Dream Game — U of L -UK 1983

Posted by frankpos on July 2, 2008

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“There have been some great games over the years, but none so big. So much was at stake, and the winner went to the Final Four. The weight of the State was on the shoulders of the players and coaches.”

“There was only one–the original–Dream Game.”

Charles Jones, U of L center in The Game

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It was — and still is– the most important, most exciting, most meaningful

single sporting event

in my life.

I have never since been so thrilled for a game–and so tense about it’s outcome.

Yes, this was the ultimate “show me” game — against the sport’s dynastic power and for recognition in our own state as an equal.

And, yes, the feelings of tension and anger still well up as I write even these simple words….

Younger Card fans….

you just don’t know.

THIS ONE WAS FOR BLOOD!

24 YEARS !!

24 years of Big Blue condescension, ridicule, and refusal to even consider scheduling us

rising to a peak of hatred and revulsion with the smarmy, snarling UK AD Cliff Hagan

and a Joe B. Hall at his clumsy, arrogant worst.

Hell, they wouldn’t have played us in 1958-59 if they hadn’t been forced to!

And that year, Peck Hickman’s unranked Cardinals whipped Adolph Rupp’s second-ranked Wildcats 76-61 in the Mideast Regional semifinals on the way to U of L’s first Final Four.

Before that, the teams hadn’t met since 1922!

UK was the dynasty, the traditionally dominant player on the national scene for decades. They had only recently been humbled by John Wooden and UCLA. The Cats had claimed five NCAA championships and had produced dozens of All-America players.

Louisville was the upstart, a successful program in its own right starting in the 40’s with coach Peck Hickman, and then regularly crashing the NCAA party in the 1970s under Denny Crum. Only three years earlier –in 1980–the Cardinals had finally won their first NCAA championship.


“I don’t think UK wanted to recognize that our program was on a competitive scale with theirs,” Denny Crum says. “They certainly didn’t want the media to recognize that.”


In those long 24 years, the teams had just missed meeting on a couple of occasions.


In 1975, both teams marched into San Diego for the Final Four.

Even then the fever for a match-up was hot. I was a senior at U of L at the time, and somehow managed to get a ticket in the student lottery– and went on my first airplane trip!

The game was in a small gym (around 15,000) in San Diego — basically a “home” game for UCLA. It was Denny’s second Final Four in his first four years, and he faced his mentor and perhaps the greatest college BBall coach of all-time. John Wooden. In what at the time was considered one of the finest games ever played (and deserves a story in its own right), U of L lost in overtime to top-ranked UCLA 75-74 in the semifinals; Joe B’s first Final Four team at Kentucky fell to the Bruins 92-85 two nights later.

(Wooden has been quoted as saying he feared Denny’s team the most. It has also long been rumored that Wooden announced to his players before the U of L game that he would retire, to fire up the Bruins.)

After Denny won his first championship in 1980, basketball aficionados throughout the nation began to clamor for a match-up. The NCAA committee seemed to want such a pairing too, and they started putting the Cards and the Cats in the the same Regional.

In 1982, Big Blue needed only to beat 11th-seeded Middle Tennessee State University in the tournament’s first round to earn a matchup with third-seeded Louisville. The Mildcats fell in a huge upset, 50-44. U of L then pummeled Middle 81-56 on the way to its second Final Four in four years.

“I really thought (that year) we were ready to play,” says Charles Jones, a 6-8 center for the Cards. “We were disappointed when they lost to Middle Tennessee State.”

The next year it happened. In 1983, UK beat a tough Bobby Knight-led Indiana squad, and U of L –with Razorback US Reed’s 50′ dagger a few years earlier still etched in their minds–edged a very difficult Eddie Sutton-coached Arkansas on a last second tip-in.

Finally…the Game was on!

And it was for the Regional championship, pitting two of the nation’s top programs against each other for a spot in the NCAA Final Four–and with both teams coming off recent NCAA championships- U of L in 1980, UK in 1978!

But there was of course a lot more was at stake when the teams took the floor at the tiny (12,000) and somewhat dingy old Stokely Athletic Center in Knoxville, Tenn.

“I can’t tell you how much more the game meant to U of L than to UK,” says Billy Reed. Then sports editor of The Courier-Journal, Reed incurred the wrath of UK’s coaches and fans for advocating a series between the two schools. “Had UK won that game they probably would never have played (the series).”

CBS and a national audience were focused on the game.

So that you have a true understanding of the intensity of the Game, take a moment and listen to the CBS pre-game show -particularly the classic John Tesch interviews with Denny at his cocky, sarcastic best and Joe B. at his clumsy worst –“Is that (camera) off?” ( You can also watch the entire game at Jerb’s site.)

My brother-in-law — a huge Card fan like me–managed to get tickets. We took our wives–both dyed deep Blue.

I was 29 at the time.

For six years, I had been working and living in Eastern Ky and I was definitely one of only a handful of U of L fans in that region — and EVERYONE let me know it.

I had been raised a UK fan –as most Louisvillians and Kentuckians were in that era. People younger than 50 do not understand this: Rupp was God in Kentucky, even in Louisville in the 50’s and 60’s. When Blue deigned to play at Freedom Hall, it was packed, and people were turned away.

The Cards did not fill Freedom Hall like that until the 80’s.

But after seeing Unseld play, and attending U of L, and being blinded by the brilliance of this new smart-ass coach from the West Coast who wore those so-trendy leisure suits– I had become a die hard Card fan.

You had to be a rebel in your own family and city back then to “come out” as a Card fan!

Now… I ached for –and dreaded –the Game.

If we won… supreme vindication…within our families, our city, maybe even our State. For our style of play…and our ideals (no need to go into race issues here- suffice to say UK did not integrate its BBall until the 70’s- well after U of L).

If we lost… oh God! It felt like we would never get over the hump then. More “little brother” nonsense, more feeling like a second class citizen in your own city, more daily abuse from family, neighbors, friends!

But I and most Card fans felt confident going into this game. Yes, Joe B and Denny each had one NCAA ring at that point. But Denny had taken the Cards to 4 Final Fours while Joe B had only the one. And the Cards were generally considered by impartial experts to have the stronger team in 1983. It had been clear for awhile–even in most UK fans’ minds–that U of L was at least equal to and probably better than UK from 1971-1972 to this point.

Yes, U of L “wanted” the Game more than UK–but let me tell you: UK feared the Game much, MUCH more.

I don’t remember much about the ride down, but I remember being somewhat surprised at how small the arena was. It was old and a bit musty. But every seat had a great view.

As you can imagine, the feeling in the crowd before the game was electric –I’ve seldom felt anything like that raw mix of emotions. Violence had been feared….

But then, just before the game started, in what is one of the most celebrated moments of the entire event, the cheerleaders from both schools locked arms and led the crowd in singing My Old Kentucky Home. The scene sent chills through me and thousands of others. Tears flowed openly in the emotion of the moment…

And then it was on!

From the opening tip it was war. Louisville fell behind quickly. The shooting of guard Jim Master and forward Derrick Hord bolted UK to a 15-6 lead, then 23-10. “I knew they would be tough,” Crum says of that Wildcats team. “Their players were as good as any in the country.”

I remember thinking that the Cards looked tight, and UK played a very steady, controlled game, never allowing our feared defensive pressure to find a crack.

Still, the Cards never panicked. Brothers Scooter and Rodney McCray began to take over inside, scoring six of Louisville’s next eight baskets. Charles Jones’ lay-up cut UK’s halftime lead to seven, 37-30.

Crum felt U of L had begun to take control. At halftime, “He told us not to worry about it,” Jones says. “He said ‘Let’s go out there and play ball.’ “

“There were no Knute Rockne speeches,” Crum says. “The incentive was there.”

UK once again jumped on the Cardinals at the start of the second half. Center Melvin Turpin’s hook shot gave UK a 43-32 lead with 16:38 left in the game.

Then the Cardinals took over.

In less than two minutes U of L outscored the Cats 12-2, cutting the lead to one point. The teams then traded baskets until a similar flurry put U of L up five, 58-53. I remember finally feeling some relief, thinking the Cards had finally rattled the Cats, and that we were ready to hammer the final nail in.

But UK fought back, tying the game at 60 each with just over three minutes left.

We missed our shot, and UK had the ball with about 2:00 to go. This was bad. Very bad. There was no shot clock then. The Cats could just run the clock down for the game’s last shot.

And that’s what they tried to do. The moved the ball around for what seemed a lifetime until finally, with 20 seconds left, UK guard Dirk Minniefield faked Lancaster Gordon right and drove wide open to his left for a certain layup.

Out of nowhere, Charles Jones soared across the lane and tipped the shot away from the goal toward Scooter McCray. He fired a pass to his brother, who then fed Gordon, who redeemed himself with a short jump shot and a 62-60 Cardinals lead. Only eight seconds remained.

Wild CARDS cheers echoed off the old arena walls. High- fiving, raucous Cards fans –after having waited those many long years–were ready, oh so ready, for that final sweet vindication. Imagine the energy of caged animals not fed for a lonnnngg time. I (we) could taste it!

But Blue refused to lose. The Cats got the ball to Master, who nailed a 12-foot jump shot with less than a second left.

The Dream Game was going to overtime!

By this point, the tension was almost unbearable. There was what can only be described as wild-eyed pandemonium on both sides. I could barely speak, my voice so raw from the shouting. This most hoped for victory by the Cards had been snatched away at the last possible second. I was drained dead.

Accounts after the game indicated that some people literally fainted and had to be helped out…

And then… what followed was what many, MANY fans still believe are the best five minutes in U of L basketball history.

As UK’s Master said after the game, “It was like a cavalry charge.”

The Cards took control from the tip. Gordon hit a baseline jumper for a 64-62 lead, which he followed with another jump shot. Jones contributed two free throws. Guard Milt Wagner hit a layup, then two free throws, threw down an exclamation-point dunk and drilled another two free throws to cap a 14-0 run. Two more dunks– by Gordon and Wagner–and three late Kentucky baskets led to a surprisingly lopsided final score, 80-68.


U of L had shot an unbelievable 81% during the second half and overtime and had been perfect in the extra period, hitting all six of its field goal attempts and all six free throws.

And on defense?

“They were all over the floor,” said UK guard Dicky Beal. “They were just everywhere.”

The Cardinals had made 30 of their final 36 shots. Crum described the Cardinals performace as “I don’t think we ever played any second half or overtime any better than today.” He went on to marvel at how Kentucky could shoot 56% from the field during the game and still get beat.

After the game, fans roared while players cut down the nets. Gordon, the regional MVP, stood on a ladder holding the rim with one hand. In the other was a sign that said, “Cardinals Best in State.”

It was a game for the ages… one that is still unsurpassed in this intense rivalry.

Here are some of the interviews with the players before and after the game (just ck out the first 2 minutes.)

In Louisville, fans rushed from the Cardinal Inn out into the streets near campus. Students dangled from telephone poles and street signs. Fans drove throughout the city, hanging out car windows, honking their horns and waving flags.

Yes, we had been denied a seat at the family table for many, many long discouraging years.

And now, as we were seated at the head… it felt good. Oh so good….

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After the game, my brother-in-law and I were of course ecstatic — but our wives…not so much so. : – )

Very prudently, we avoided any razzing on the trip home–although sorely tempted. My sister, when asked for her account of the Game today, simply says she was “devastated.”

After the Game, an emotionally drained Card squad continued on to the Final Four that year, where they lost to the the Houston Cougar’s ‘Phi Slamma Jamma’ squad in one of the more memorable games of the 1980’s.


The Kentucky players–and Big Blue Nation– were heartbroken. Over a decade later, UK point guard Dirk Minniefield still couldn’t bear to watch a replay of what was the final game of his career. After finally being talked into it, Minniefield remarked, “I played pretty well. Everybody on our team did. We played as hard as we could. Louisville just played better. I can give them credit.” And then a pause. “But I still should have dunked that ball.”

(Even as recently as last year, Dirk was STILL in denial, blaming a joint he smoked THE DAY before the Game for causing him to miss that layup!)

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The Game caused seismic changes in Louisville and the State of Kentucky.

The governor, legendary entrepreneur John Y. Brown (who had diplomatically worn a half blue, half-red sport coat to the Game), legislators and even the boards of trustees of U of L and UK began to talk about a series between the schools. Shortly after, they announced that they would begin playing each other.

And, so …the U of L-UK series was born.

Denny’s and Joe B’s careers had run remarkably parallel time-wise to each other. And, although he posted a fine record at UK, Joe B suffered in the bright light of comparison to our truly brilliant coach– 1 championship to Denny’s 2, and 2 Final Four’s to Denny’s 6!

The high-flying, full court pressing Louisville style of play had obviously prevailed. Three years later, Joe B was looking for a job.

Yes, this game–the Game –was the tipping point.

We had gotten that first NCAA championship–but we hadn’t won our own State, yet. Now we had not only that inter-family vindication, but we also had cemented our position among the all-time basketball powers in the national consciousness. Denny put down his final exclamation point for emphasis in ’86.

There is little question today whether U of L and UK should play each other in all sports. There is now at least grudging mutual respect.

Our own city of Louisville — previously dominated by UK fans — also began the major change to where the vast majority of Louisvillians are now Cards fans.

And the State of Kentucky — well, it’s still Blue.

But there is little doubt that there are a lot more Cardinals flying high throughout the State today because of

The Game.

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The following are memories of the Game that fans have sent to me. The very last one is one from my brother-in-law, Matt, who got us tickets for the game –and remembers some great details I had forgotten.

If anyone has any pictures or others story to share, please send them or leave a comment!

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I was there as a 14 year old

sitting up in the corner behind the UofL bench. We were very lucky to squeek out a win and avoid overtimet on Scooters tip-in at the buzzer against Sutton’s Arkansas team (they had knocked us out 2 of the previous 4 tourney’s). They had Alvin Robertson, Darrell Walker, & Joe Kliene, all longtime NBA players. Against uk I seem to remenber we had a tough time stopping Turpin. After being down about 2/3 of the game, we grabbed a lead. Of course, everyone knows Master hit the shot to send it to OT before we blew it out.

I also remember as we walked in about 30 minutes before tip, scalpers outside the arena suprisingly had alot of tickets still to get rid of. And as the original post says, it was a very strange old arena with small balconies over each end zone

by neverwrongponchowright

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Yeah I was 9 yrs old and had the beginning of the Chicken Pox. There is a great YouTube introduction to the ballgame I know. I have seen it many times. The great old CBS Bumper Music and Gary Bender and Billy Packer courtside for in their opinion an epic game. I remember as a little kid just shocked because I thought we were so much better than Blue was but it seemed we were behind anywehre from 7-13 points most of the game till all of the sudden we started pressing and they must have made about 4 turnovers in a row in backcourt and Gary Bender just raving about the Low-e-velllll press. Man Bender was awesome! I think he was a far superior p x p for CBS than Nantz.

Actually if you will remember this game was pre shot clock days and the scored was tied at 64 at about the 2 minute mark and Kentucky held the ball till the Minniefield drive at about the 18 second mark. We all know that Jones blocked it we get a fast break and Gordon banks one in with about 10 seconds or so that set up the end. No 3 point line in those days either. Guys like Wagner, Jeff Hall and Jim Master would have had field days back then.

JeffersontownCard
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I was 7 yrs old. yet I remember it like it was literally yesterday!

UofLCardsFan

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I was 12. It was truly the most intense atmosphere Ive ever been to, even more so than the National championship games.IMO The best part of the whole weekend, with the exception of the overtime, was the tip at the buzzer in the sweet 16 game. Up to that point I was just sick that we were that close to getting to beat the hell out of UK finally and it was so close to slipping away. The year before in the tournament we were supposed to play them in the second round but they lose to middle tenn. st., I still think they threw that game just so they didnt get beat down by us.

Timb23

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I watched the game at a friends house because the bar we usually watched games at was mostly “Blew”. One of my UK buddies flipped a pool table after the OT. He was a big strong construction type guy. Legend has it the table didn’t roll, tumble, or land on it’s side. It just went from upright to upside down in a matter of seconds. I do remember the slate was about $800 way back then. He’s still a sore loser.
bjintheville

I watched the ot on youtube a while back and it was as good as I remember. I thought we were toast at the end of regulation but that goofy Minnifield thought he could drive on Charles Jones – wrong. Blocked shot and Gordon bank shot and only Master saved them to take it into ot.

IamReady

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I was 29 years old and campus minister at the U of K…. it was fun “jawing” with the students and good naturedly watching the game together at our student center…it became wonder “fodder” for conversation for the next few years..

they were very good natured about the loss and it was edifying to see how they warmed up to some of the UL players afterwards.

In 1988 I was talking to Lancaster Gordon in a private health club (Louisville)…we talked about the Lakers and his time at UL….it was fascinating to listen to him vividly recall the small nuiances of the game itself ….and how defensive errors nearly cost them dearly near the end…. they just didn’t think Masters could beat them, unfortunately he had the game of his life in that loss.

Westport68

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Agree! I thought it was funny that CBS interviewed him and asked him why UK wouldn’t schedule UofL. He, I think, sheepishly asked, “Is the camera on? Could you turn it off?” Can’t remember the details but it really made him and the Kayats look foolish and small.Now, I really enjoy listening to Joe B and think he’s really a pretty good guy.Recalling the Dream Game, I actually was on my honeymoon. Me and my new bride snuck off to a local pub in Florida and watched UK beat IU and then UofL squeezed by Arkansas with a McCray tip in to put us in the “Dream Game”.

I remember feeling pretty confident the entire game. I do remember that we were down I believe early in the second half and Denny went to the trapping 2-2-1 press and UK couldn’t figure a way to get the ball up court. We took the lead eventually and it looked like we were going to win until the kayats started getting “hot” near the end. I’ll never forget that when Jim Master (I couldn’t stand the guy) hit that last second shot to force OT, I tossed a full can of Bud across the room. Needless to say, my new wife was probably thinking to herself, “what the hell have I gotten into. This guy is nuts, getting upset over a basketball game.” As we all know, it wasn’t just any basketball game. And BTW, I am still married with 3 kids – ALL CARDINAL FANS!

CARDSkickCATS
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While we were all PO that Masters tied the game. In retrospect, the OT is what made the game so special if we had merely won by 2 in regulation it would not have been nearly as satisfying as seeing Milt and Lancaster running and dunking in the OT.
sccardfan
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The night before the big game (I was a junior in high school) I spent a few hours next to the radio listening to Van Vance and Jock Sutherland on 840 WHAS broadcasting live at the official night before pep rally in Knoxville. I had goosebumps the entire time. I could hear and essentially feel the excitement in that room. Near the end of the broadcast, which I recorded, but have since misplaced, a woman called in asking if they could replay the last few seconds of Louisville’s last second tip-in win against Arkansas that helped set up the Dream Game. The place erupted with cheers like it was the game all over again. Good times!
MichaelMcCammon
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I attended the game and recall being a bit amused about the fact U of L fans seemed to outnumber UK fans in the arena — given that our friends always tell us the Big Blew has the most devoted (and numerous) fans. I must admit that I thought we would blow them out of the gym and was surprised the game was so tight during regulation. I believe to this day our team was very nearly out of gas after pulling out the regional semifinal game. Our ’83 team had very little depth and it finally caught up with us in a big way against Houston — a game I also attended –but that is another story! Driving home, we began encountering “Dump Joe B.” signs as soon as we hit the state line. I have to concur with the earlier comments about Joe B. –then and now –what a changed public persona!
MVCCard
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I was a student at Georgetown College at the time and got to go to THE game with my uncle( and other family) who worked for Lay’s Packing Company in Knoxville and was a big UK fan. After the game I was wanting to stick around and enjoy the celebration but he was so livid that we had to leave and he kept saying “that was the worst officiated game he had ever seen in his entire life”.
I grew up in Harlan and fully understood wthe magnitude of what that game meant and loved every second of it.
It was the best live sporting event I have ever gotten to experience first hand in all my 48 years.
If I can find some of my photo’s I will share them. I know I had a photo of the jump ball to start the game( Mel Turpin and Charles Jones)

Cardinaldave

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That article brought up a lot of good memories. I was 15 when they played that game. At that time, I was awestruck by these Louisville players. I consider them to be my first heroes in life and I still feel that way. They were 1st class all the way.

Before the Pitino era, a friend’s wife decided it would be a great gift to get her husband a copy of the 1st Dream Game. She called the UofL athletics office and spoke with one of Denny’s former assistants. I believe his name was Jones. He was one of Crum’s long-time assistants (the other great being Wade Houston). He kindly responded he would look around and see what he could find. A week later she received in the mail, not only the Dream Game, but also the Houston Final 4 game and the ’86 championship. We spent all night watching all three games. Even in a loss, the Houston game was great to watch as was the ’86 game. But nothing was more exciting than to watch the ’83 game again. As thrilling as the comeback in the 2nd half was, the overtime was pure magic. They released the ’80 championship on DVD to celebrate its 25th anniversary and I suspect they’ll do the same for the ’86 game as well. More than anything I’d like to have the ’83 game in my library.

AACards

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That game still gives me chills thinking about it. I personally felt I had so much at stake because of the trash-talking I’d done against all the other UK fans I’d grown up with. It was put up or shut up time and I was praying they’d take care of business like I knew they could. And while they scared me for the most part of 40 minutes despite still playing very good ball, I couldn’t ask for more from that overtime. To this day, about as good a five minutes of basketball that I’ve ever seen anyone play. Absolutely amazing.

Shooze

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‘ve noted that most on this board are ‘fairly’ young and only think of UL in terms of their generation. I go back almost 3 generations of being a UL fan; and, I’m here to tell you the real UL vs UK dream game was in the 1958-59 basketball season. I was there; and, also present, at the previous game against Eastern KY at the old arena in Lexington.

After beating Eastern 77-63 in the game before the big one I was in 7th heaven; the minute the game was over UK fans in the arena were chanting something like, “We finally get to stomp your ass”.

It was hard to scrape up the money to go to the NCAA Mideast regional at Evanston, Illinois where finally after decades UL would meet then #2 UK. I had my future mortgaged to cover bets with rabid UK fans I knew.

The game was a real nail bitter, somewhat similar to the 1983 meeting. In the first half, UL could do no right and trailed by 15 points at the intermission. A big red-headed fellow, Don Goldstein, from New York was our shooter. Coach Peck Hickman must have given a whale of a half-time pep talk as UL came out on fire. Now it was UK who could do no right and UL went on to win 76-61 (by 15). That’s a 30 point swing in the second half.

UK coach Rupp was unable to talk after the game and it was days later he finally admitted to Peck Hickman that, “You (UL) really kicked out butts.”

I sure wish video (movies back then) was available of that game on DVD. Maybe UL has film buried in some archive somewhere. But, unlike today, filming of games wasn’t as prevalent back then.

Unfortunately, UL lost next game to WVa (Jerry West) in a good game. I think they were totally worn out.

That was the first of second year the NCAA finals were held in then fairly new Freedom Hall which for years was the biggest indoor arena in the country for basketball. 6 or 7 championships were held here through the mid60s.

None of this should be taken as anything against the 1983 game which is one of my all time favorites too; and, of course, was the first to carry the “Dream Game” moniker.

Swamp Daddy

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And now, from my brother-in-law, Matt, who went with me to the Game:

Dream Game 1983 – Leaving Las Ville

1983 was a hopeful year for the Card Fans. We still had lingering karma from the 1980 championship, and we all thought we had the team to do it again. Little during the season occurred to sway our opinion. We lost to UCLA (we were robbed), and we beat a lot of very good teams. We strung together a couple of streaks, including beating NC State, which we didn’t think much of at the time. Milt “Ice” Wagner sank two clutch free throws to defeat Memphis in the regular season, and then we beat them again in the Metro Conference semis. We went on to win the conference tournament, and were waiting for a great draw in the NC-dubs. I don’t really remember when it started happening, but sometime around that time I started to feel that Louisville always got the short end of the stick in the draws. Instead of a slot in the Mideast, where they would have played in Freedom Hall, they drew the Midwest along with Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, and a tough Indiana team. Denny said it was the toughest region. We all saw the possibility of the Kentucky game, but we knew it wasn’t a sure thing, since we were disappointed when Kentucky lost to Middle Tennessee in 1982 to kill our joy.

We were sure that Kentucky was avoiding playing Louisville, since the 1980 team had taken the national spotlight and Louisville was on a roll. If you were a Kentucky fan, you saw your beloved team in a transition period, with at least some loss of prestige. You probably knew you were the second best team in Kentucky, but you didn’t need any proof. The average Kentucky fan was in denial in the 80’s.

Kentucky beat IU in a close game, and the Kentucky fans and students lined up their tickets to Knoxville. Louisville had to go against a tough Arkansas team, which sunk the hearts and minds of Louisville in 1981 with the name US Reed forever etched into our minds when he sank a 50 foot prayer to end our run. This game was a cardio cards game as well, with this game ending in the final seconds with a miss by Ice and a tip-in by Scooter McCray. The impossible dream was set!

I remember the next morning being a turning point in my card fandom. The paper and the rest of the media jumped all over it, and didn’t hold back on any sensationalism. I had to look up the headlines, but the Louisville Times headline was WAR! in gigantic Pearl Harbor sized type. The papers printed special sections for the first time, and if you were a sports fan in Kentucky, you quickly got caught up in all the excitement.

I never got to see an NCAA semi or final in person, and fewer Louisville games in Freedom Hall than I would like. I was a poor working man at the time, with some prospects and a 1983 Renault Alliance 1.4 liter that I bought in 1982 at around a 14% interest rate. George C. Scott was touting the paint job on the car, and it surprisingly won the 1983 Motor Trend Car of the Year. It was about the only thing I could afford, as the government tried to kill inflation, I felt like they were killing me with a 13% mortgage to boot. But I was determined to see this game. The next day, I scoured the classified ads in every publication available to see about tickets. After a few calls, I found a UK student in Lexington that had 4 seats together for $50 bucks each. I couldn’t believe it. I called Frank, and he agreed to spring for the tickets if I could get them. (Thanks again Frank).

We set up the trip with myself and my wife Robin picking up the tickets at a typical UK off-campus apartment. I remember being a little wary about the ticket drop, but there was kind of a festive air about it, and to the best of my recollection the UK student said something about you guys will probably win it, good luck and all. Its kind of hard to understand now, but there were not a lot of confident UK fans, and a lot of them just did not want to go to the game. They had all the tickets, because they knew they were in, and we just appreciated being able to buy them.

We rendezvoused with Frank and Deb at the Holiday Inn on I-75 in Lexington, a famous place that everyone I know seems to use as a meeting point for going south. Not so odd in Kentucky, each car contained a set of UofL and Kentucky Fans in equal numbers (2 and 2). Each of us carried our respective colors, and we would root our teams on in typical fashion. Robin was a big Masters fan. Deb was a diehard UK fan. And Frank and I could hold our own in any arena in the country. So with great anticipation and fanfare, we headed down the winding road. I remember the Renault would go about 90 mph down the hills around London and beyond, and I could push it to 68 mph up the hills. It seemed like but a flash till we arrived for the big show.

The ambiance in the hotel was electric. We checked in and quickly got to the lobby bar. There were minor celebrities galore, and sports figures and team luminaries abounded. But I honestly can’t remember any of them. Maybe it was the Jack and Cokes we were consuming abundantly, or maybe it was the heady feeling that came with the Mardi Gras atmosphere. I do remember people without tickets trying to get them. I heard of $1000 courtside tickets, and all manner of transactions occurring around us. But the thing I remember most vividly was a pair of tickets going for face value just moments before we left for the game, probably around $24. Bottom line was that if you really wanted to get into this game, you could have done it.

The Knoxville Coliseum only seats around 12,000 {check this out}. We were in the upper deck, about 10 rows from the top, and towards the UK side. But I remember fairly good leg room and visibility. If you see the camera angle from the game, that’s about what we saw. It was all in all a pretty good venue for a game.

I will leave it to others to give details on the game itself. The game did not disappoint in any way. U of L center Charles Jones made one of the greatest blocks in UL history with the score tied 60-60, and UL drove the floor and scored with a short jumper to put them up 62-60 with 8 seconds. UK Jim Master hits a basket at the buzzer to tie it at 62 all.

I still regret this a little, it must have been the excitement and the need to relieve a little of the tension, but I got up and went to the concession stand to get a beer. By the time I got back to our seats, UL was up 6 in overtime and it never was in doubt from there. They ran 14 straight before UK scored. U of L won handily 80-62.

Another thing I remember was that UK players were classy throughout the game and afterwards in the interview. They came to play, and even though UL looked to have the better record and the better team, UK played like they didn’t know it, and when they got beat, they recognized U of L as probably the top team in the Nation. Except Louisville lost to the Phi Slamma Jamma in the semis in Albuquerque. They finished the season 32-4. Some say it was the altitude, others say that maybe beating Kentucky emotionally drained Louisville. I just remember that I don’t remember anything about the Houston loss. And remember the NC State team Louisville beat earlier in the year? They won the title that appears every year on your screen during March Madness with Jim Valvano running crazily out on the floor in celebration.

Billy Packard called the original dream game on TV, and every year Billy and Dick tout the great Duke/NC rivalry as the tops in college basketball. But Kentucky knows, and you know, and a large part of the sports nation knows that the Annual UofL/UK game is the original and the best Dream game in the country. They only thing that really comes close is the OSU/Michigan football game.

Lest you doubt the seriousness that UK fans take with the annual dream game, here is a random quote Googled off the net from a UK blog:

“BUT….I grew up as a small child hating UL, lived through the original “Dream Game”, and cried when UK was blow out in the OT. I waited in line for HOURS to get a student ticket to watch UK beat a sorry UL team. I give nose-bleed tickets to UK/UL to 2 uncles that bleed blue and it was like I had given them the winning powerball ticket. UK/UL is a passion. It is much more than a UK/TN or UK/Fla rivalry., although I do hate Tenn and recently learned to hate Fla. UK/UL IS unc/duke, it IS Kansas/Missou, not only is UK/UL a great rivalry it is one of the 5 greatest rivalrys in the country. When is the last time your family held an annual UK/Florida party???????? OH YEA I forgot, now Slicky Ricky coaches there. I wouldn’t root for UL to win a chess tourny, can’t stand to watch them win in football, girls’ BBall, baseball, or swimming for that matter.”

And so time goes on, and the dream continues. The Renault paint job that George C. Scott touted as the best in the world oxidized mysteriously in 5 years and flaked off. The 1986 Consumer Reports “Annual Auto Issue” surveyed owners after five years , and the 1983 Renault Alliance scored worst ratings in “Engine”, “Clutch”, “Driveline”, “Engine cooling”, “Suspension”, “Exhaust system”, “Automatic transmission” and “Manual transmission”. I managed to trade the vehicle in for another Renault that I bought in a giddy frenzy caused by mortgage refinancing my house for 8%, which blew a timing belt 4 years later, thus proving the definition of insanity is doing things repeatedly while expecting different results.

I still expect U of L to win every dream game every year. Regardless, we were young once, and we were there for the first one, and we have the liver spots to show for it.

Matt

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12 Responses to “The Original Dream Game — U of L -UK 1983”

  1. Bucky said

    I was 19 at the time, and it was one of the best games i have seen.Big game that was in overtime how much better could it get. From the cards fan.

  2. I love the UK vs UL games. It is good for the state and basketball. Crum was awesome coach. I love my Big Blue but cheer for the Cardinals when we aren’t playing them.
    As for you question, no….my job has cause me to semi-retire. Rev and I will have a new he said she said up this week since I am on vacation. I have to say it did not hurt me to lose that game. It is the Duke game that still draws blood for me!! GO BIG BLUE!!

  3. frankpos said

    Thanks for all the kind words, Roz and others.

    Roz, on your re-read you probably noticed I added even more thoughts and memories as they occur–particularly the overall thinking at that time, and how the Game was so pivotal in U of L’s history.

    I’ll add things to this article — and other historical pieces I write. I wish I could get some players to add their thoughts–Lancaster has rebuffed me so far.

    Book? Hmmm, if I could really lay my hands on the old pics, and get interviews with the coaches, players, etc.

    I like this format because I can incorporate the short videos — they are meaningful I think.

    Frank

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