7^ &itd ' Pau4c
Freedom Hall Will Not Lose Its Mystique
Just mentioning the name of Freedom Hall brings back many fond University of Kentucky basketball memories. Memories not only of the Wildcats, but other college, high school and pro hoop games as well. When Kentucky faces in-state rival Louisville Saturday in the remodeled home of the Cards, the arena may look different, but the unforgettable events will still be embedded on the red and gold Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center floor.
Ceils' Pause Columnist
Even with the structural changes inside, additional seating, installation of the enclosed suits, and the new lighting, the ghost of basketball past, present, and future still remains at Freedom Hall.
Overall six NCAA championships have been played in the arena. The coveted college crown was awarded in Louisville during the years of 1958 (Kentucky), 1959 (California), 1962 (Cincinnati), 1963 (Loyloa, 111.), 1967 (UCLA), and 1969 (UCLA).
Here are just a few legendary Wildcat performances played at Freedom Hall.
The Final Four in 1958
Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp, entered the Final Four with a 21-6 record. The other three teams in the field were: Temple, Kansas State, and Seattle.
UK was matched up against Temple in the semifinals. Temple came into the contest with a 26-2 slate, with one of those two losses coming early in the season against the Wildcats, 85-83 in triple-overtime. Led by the "Fiddlin Five" -- Vern Hatton, Ed Beck, John Cox, Adrian Smith, and John Crigler --Kentucky defeated Temple 61-60 to advance to the finals against Elgin Baylor and Seattle. Baylor won the outstanding player award, in the tournament,but UK won the overall battle 84-72. It was Rupp's fourth NCAA title in 11 years.
Indiana-Kentucky December 11, 1971
At the time, I was only 11, but I do remember the performance of IU's 6-foot-8 center Steve Downing. I recall Downing scoring 47 points against the Wildcats' Jim Andrews as Indiana won the game in double-overtime 90-89. The Hoosiers were coached by a first-year instructor of the name of Bobby Knight. Kentucky entered the game ranked sixth in the nation. Andrews paced UK with 22 points followed by 5-9 guard Ronnie Lyons with 19. .
Indiana-Kentucky December, 15, 1975
No. 1 ranked Indiana came into Freedom Hall as a big favorite over the Wildcats. With All-America Kent Benson and Scott May, everyone in the state figured that the game was a mismatch. However UK, 2-2, gave Indiana its closest scare of their championship season.
The year before Kentucky had knocked off top-ranked Indiana 92-90 in the finals of the Mideast Regionals, so the Hoosiers were looking for revenge.
In the closing seconds Benson's uncanny tip-in tied the score at 64 and sent the game into overtime. IU outscored the upset-minded Cats 13-4 in the extra period to pull out the win 77-68. Lexington Bryan Station product Jack Givens led the Wildcats with 20 points.
Indiana finished the season with a perfect 32-0 record and the NCAA championship.
Notre Dame-Kentucky December 30, 1978
Led by Truman Claytor and freshman sensation Dwight Anderson, Kentucky defeated the then undefeated and Top Ten ranked Irish 81-76.
With Kentucky trailing 65-53 midway through the second half, the Cats fought back to tie the score 70-70. Anderson poured in six of UK's proceeding eight points to secure the Kentucky victory. Claytor led the Wildcats in scoring with 18 points while Anderson finished with 17.
Other eye-catching events have been paraded in front of large Freedom Hall crowds.
Events such as Paul Hogue leading the Cincinnati Bearcats to their second straight NCAA championship. Twice UC upset Ohio State with Ail-American Jerry Lucus and John Havlicek. Cincinnati won the '62 championship game over the Buckeyes 71-59.
In 1967 the River City crowd was treated to the talents of UCLA's Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Houston's Elvin Hayes, and North Carolina's Don Chaney. The Bruins defeated Dayton in that tourney 79-64.
Two years later Coach John Wooden's squad again won the title in Louisville, this time beating Purdue, led by sharpshooter Rick Mount 92-72. For the third year in a row Alcindor was chosen the Final Four's MVP.
The Sweet 16 high school tourney also had some outstanding year's in Freedom Hall.__
In 1963, Louisville Seneca with Mike Redd, Kentucky's Mr. Basketball, and with Wes Unseld won this particular "showcase of talent" event. Including Redd (Kentucky Wesleyan) and Unseld (University of Louisville and Washington Bullets) the tournament featured Taylor County's Clem Haskins (Western Kentucky and Washington Bullets), Princeton Dotson's brothers Greg Smith (WKU and the Milwaukee Bucks) and the late Dwight Smith (WKU), and Owensboro's Charles Taylor (Kentucky Wesleyan).
In 1965 Breckenridge County, with an enrollment of less than 300, won the elite Kentucky title. The team from western Kentucky was paced by former Louisville great and NBA star Butch Beard. Breckenridge County is best remembered for beating Jimmy Rose (Western) and Hazard in the semi-finals.
Bruin seniors Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker were instrumental in helping Ballard win the state championship in 1977. The two players went on to have fine careers at the University of Virginia.
Pro basketball in Louisville during the early 70's was just as exciting. Watching Gilmore, Dan Issel, the late Wendall Ladner.Cincy Powell, Ron Thomas, and other Kentucky Colonels was just plain fun. It was a shame that this team never got to show off their talents in the more publicized NBA.
Even though the Colonels only won one ABA title, they may have been the best team that league has ever produced.
With Dream Game IV less than 24 hours away, a certain beautified arena will be the host of another basketball confrontation. Yes, no matter how you look at it, Freedom Hall was, and still is a place for exciting things to happen.
Anderson Rises To The Occasion