NCAA Basketball: A Brief History of the North Carolina-Kentucky Rivalry
On Saturday we will see two of the most talented teams in the history of College Basketball play in Rupp Arena.
Kentucky has six future NBA players and UNC has at least five.
Kentucky has seven McDonald's All Americans and Carolina has eight.
Carolina has a Hall of Fame coach and Kentucky has a coach with Hall of Fame swagger
To describe the scene in Rupp Arena this Saturday as anything short of special would be a drastic understatement.
But to describe the Kentucky and North Carolina basketball programs as anything but special would also be a drastic understatement.
They are two of the three winning best programs of all-time, they have combined for 13 national titles, they have combined for at least five Hall of Fame coaches, they have the two of the highest winning percentages in the history of college basketball, and they have one of the most exciting rivalries in the history of college basketball.
So even though Kentucky are Carolina are going to be a show Saturday, they really should not surprise you.
It has been this way for the past one hundred years.
Here is a brief history of the UK-UNC rivalry.....
The 1920's: UNC 2-0
2/29/1924: UNC 41 UK 24
The pre-Adolph Rupp Wildcats just could not “keep up” with the Norman Shepard-led Heels
Cartwright Carmichael (who attempted to shoot Nucky Thompson on the last episode of Boardwalk Empire) and Jack Cobb combined for 31 of the Heels' 41 points.
The game was not televised on CBS.
1/4/1929: UNC 26 UK 15
Carolina was just a few years removed from their first national title and Kentucky was still one year removed from coaching legend Adolph Rupp.
So it makes perfect sense that Carolina would "four-corners" their way to blowing out the lifeless Wildcats.
Carolina got nine points from James, two points from Rufus, and three points from a player named Artie.
The 1930's: UNC 1-0
2/27/1932: UNC 43 UK 42
Virgil Weathers and Tom Alexander combined for 24 of the Heels' 43 points as the Heels were able to overcome a one-point halftime deficit (in modern basketball that is like 15 points) to get their third straight victory over the Cats.
The game was won on “one of those one handed shots” as time expired.
The Lexington newspaper described this classic as a “ding-dong” battle and Adolph Rupp said he “was proud of them boys.”
The 1950's: UK 2-0
1/9/1950: UK 83 UNC 44
Kentucky was an absolute juggernaut in the 1940’s and the 1950’s.
They had players who could not only win NCAA championships, but could also beat those Russians for Olympic Gold Medals.
Kentucky got 18 points from Walter Hirsch, 16 points from Bill Spivey, 11 points from Dale Barnstable, and 10 points from Jim Line.
Also it was said that the “White Phantoms” could not deal with the “loud clapping” of Alumni Gymnasium.
12/18/1959: UK 76 UNC 70
It was a matchup of two legendary coaches in Frank McGuire and Adolph Rupp and, arguably, a matchup of two even better teams.
UNC had just upset Wilt Chamberlain (see: Wilt Chamberlain) to win the 1957 national championship in what may have been the greatest college basketball game ever played and Kentucky had just won their fourth national title in 1958.
The game was played in front of an amazing (for the time) 12,000 people and UNC was almost able to overcome a 12 point deficit to upset the Wildcats.
Bennie Coffman led the Wildcats with 23 points, Bill Lickert scored 15, and Ned Jennings scored 13.
Also, none of the 12,000 Wildcat fans at the game were concerned about the players leaving after their freshman season.
The 1960's: UNC 5-3
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12/13/1960: UK 70 UNC 65
Despite getting 47 points from the dynamic duo of Doug Moe and York Larese, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels were still upset by a surprisingly unranked Kentucky team.
Adolph Rupp’s team got 52 points out of its big three as Ned Jennings scored 19, Larry Pursiful 17 and Bill Lickert 16.
Also, Larry Brown played zero minutes but declined seven NBA jobs.
12/17/1962: UNC 68 UK 66
It was the first Adolph Rupp-Dean Smith matchup in the history of the series.
The Heels got 54 of their 68 points from four players as Larry Brown scored 19, Yogi Poteet scored 17, Charlie Shaffer scored 15 and Billy Cunningham scored 15.
UNC also held UK star Cotton Nash to 12 points.
12/9/1963: UK 100 UNC 80
Adolph Rupp and the Wildcats celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the 43-42 game by scoring 100 and beating the Heels by 20.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats got 20-plus points from Ted Deeken, Cotton Nash and Terry Mobley, and 15 or more points from Charles Ishmael and Larry Conley.
The Heels got 32 points from All-American Billy Cunningham.
12/7/1964: #13 UNC 82 #11 UK 67
UNC got 45 huge points from Billy Cunningham and Bob Lewis and was able to blow out the 13th ranked Wildcats in the second half.
UNC was also able to hold the Pat Riley-Larry Conley duo to 25 points, hold John Adams to 14 points, and hold future legend Louie Dampier scoreless.
The game was the first UNC-UK game to be played in the Charlotte Coliseum.
12/13/1966: #8 UNC 64 UK 55
UNC was able to win by nine even though they only used a six-player rotation.
Larry Miller led the Heels with 24 points and Rusty Clark and Bob Lewis added 10 points each.
The size of Larry Miller was just too much to deal with for a Wildcat team that did not have a really tall player.
The size of UNC also allowed them to hold Pat Riley and Louie Dampier to a combined 21 points.
12/12/1967: #5 UNC 84 #9 UK 77
The Tarheels once again were able to out-physical the Wildcats, getting 42 points from Larry Miller and Rusty Clark and outrebounding the Wildcats by five.
The Heels also held the lead scoring in Kentucky history (Dan Issel) to thirteen points and only allowed one other player to score over thirteen points (Thad Jaracz had 19.)
12/7/1968: #2 UNC 87 #3 UK 77
The Tarheels outrebounded the run-and-gun Wildcats by 11 as they cruised to a 10-point victory.
Mike Casey, Dan Issel, and Mike Pratt were the only real scores for Kentucky and UNC got nine or more points from six different players.
12/8/1969: #2 UK 94 #7 UNC 84
Kentucky outrebounded the Heels by 10 boards and was finally able to off to a good start against one of Dean Smith’s teams.
Dan Issel had an amazing 41 points, Mike Pratt had 27 points, and Terry Mills added 12.
The 1970's: UNC 4-1
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12/11/1972: #13 UNC 78 #8 UK 70
UNC got 22 points out of George Karl, 15 points out of Bobby Jones, and 14 points from Ed Sahl as they cruised to an 8-point victory over Joe B. Hall’s Wildcats.
The Heels led by 20 points at halftime and had an eight-rebound advantage over the Wildcats.
12/10/1973: #5 UNC 101 #10 UK 84
UNC got at least eleven points from five different players and had a 12 rebound advantage over the Cats as they cruised to a 17 point victory.
The Cats got half their points from the Kevin Grevey and Mike Flynn duo but did not really get any solid production from any other key players.
12/9/1974: #15 UK 90 #9 UNC 78
Kentucky got 35 points from Jimmy Dan Conner, 16 points from Kevin Grevey, 12 points from Mike Flynn and 10 points from Bob Guyette as they cruised to a 12-point upset over the ninth-ranked Heels.
Guyette played a huge role in this game as his ten rebounds allowed the Cats to have a 10-rebound advantage over the Heels.
Four other Kentucky players also had five or more rebounds.
12/8/1975: #4 UNC 90 #7 UK 77
UNC was able to expand its two-point halftime lead thanks to a great performance by Mitch Kupchak. Kupchak had 24 points and nine rebounds but he was also eight of nine from the free throw line.
UNC also got 19 points and 8 huge assists from the young Phil Ford and got a double-double from Walter Davis.
3/19/1977: #5 UNC 79 #3 UK 72
The first NCAA tournament matchup between these two powers ended with UNC edging the Wildcats by seven points.
The Wildcats team of James Lee, Jack Givens, Rick Robey, Mike Philips, and Larry Johnson just could not handle the rebounding and the shooting of two of Carolina’s biggest stars
Walter Davis had 21 points and six rebounds and John Kuester went 13 of 14 from the free-throw line and scored 19 points total.
The 1980's: UNC 2-0
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12/26/1981: #1 UNC 82 #2 UK 69
UNC took advantage of Kentucky's lack of star, big man Sam Bowie (anyone shocked he was out?), and got huge games from James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and someone named Michael Jordan.
These two teams were just ridiculously talented.
Carolina’s roster included Jordan, Worthy, Perkins, Doherty, Peterson, and Jimmy Black.
Kentucky had a team with Dirk Minnefield, Jim Master, Melvin Turpin, Derrick Hord, and an injured Sam Bowie.
UNC's having three future NBA all-stars proved to be way too much for a Bowie-less Cats team.
12/27/1989: #24 UNC 121 UK 110
This is when Kentucky fans started to stop forgetting about the Unforgettables.
A very talented UNC team only beat a team of Kentucky walk-ons by 11 points.
Kentucky got big performances from Derrick Miller, John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus, Richie Farmer, and Reggie Hanson.
The Heels were led by King Rice, Rick Fox, and Rick Astley (just kidding.)
The 1990's: UNC 2-0
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12/10/1990: #10 UNC 84 #25 UK 81
Even though his team led by eight points at halftime, Rick Pitino and the Wildcats could not put the exclamation point on one of the greatest one-year coaching jobs in the history of college basketball.
Freshman Jamal Mashburn had 15 points and John Pelphrey scored 24 points for one of the most beloved teams in Kentucky history.
UNC was once again led by the disco-ing styles of Rick Fox and King Rice along with the goofy laughs of Hubert Davis.
3/25/1995: #4 UNC 74 #2 UK 61
By winning this game, UNC prevented Kentucky from having one of the greatest dynasties in the history of modern college basketball.
If UK had won this game, they would have advanced to four straight final fours (95-98) and at least three straight championship games (96-98), and won at least two national titles (96 and 98.)
The Heels were just too athletic to allow this to happen though.
UNC got 18 points from future all-star Jerry Stackhouse, 18 points from Donald Williams, 12 points and several freakouts from Rasheed Wallace, and some solid play from Jeff McInnis.
The 2000's: Both Teams Had Five Wins
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12/2/2000: UK 93 #6 UNC 76
Kentucky got huge games from Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Marquis Estill, Cliff Hawkins, and even Saul Smith.
UNC was coached by Matt Doherty.
12/8/2001: #11 UK 79 UNC 59
Tayshaun Prince started off this game with five straight three-pointers. Tubby Smith called it “unbelievable,” Matt Doherty called it “ridiculous,” teammate JP Blevins called it “awesome,” and Blair Chopin calls it “the most viewed video on his YouTube account.”
Kentucky also got solid games from Marvin Stone and JP Blevins.
UNC was still coached by Matt Doherty….
12/7/2002: #18 UK 98 #12 UNC 81
Kentucky scored 58 points in the second half and shot 67 percent on their way to dismantling the Tar Heels.
Chuck Hayes scored 16 points, Gerald Fitch scored 25, and Keith Bogans added another 20 points.
Tubby Smith later reprimanded his team for scoring way too much.
UNC still wasn’t coached by Roy Williams…..
1/3/2004: #8 UK 61 #9 UNC 56
Kentucky was able to contain the high flying attack of Roy Williams' Tar Heels.
Tubby Smith’s team was led by Erik Daniels 18 points, Chuck Hayes 10 points, and All-American Gerald Fitch’s 21 points.
The Heels got 27 points out of Melvin Scott and Raymond Felton, eight points out of Sean May, and a lot of turnovers out of future movie star Rashad McCants.
12/4/2004: #9 UNC 91 #8 UK 78
Kentucky’s freshmen were just not ready for the test that was playing at Chapel Hill. Freshman Joe Crawford, Randolph Morris, Ramel Bradley, and even Rajon Rondo struggled in the first big game of their college careers.
Carolina on the other hand was led by one of the best recruiting classes in their history.
Sean May had 14 points and no donuts, Raymond Felton had seven assists, and Rashad McCants had 28 points.
12/3/2005: UNC 83 #10 UK 79
This is the most underrated win of the "Roy Williams era" at Carolina.
Carolina came into this game really not knowing what they had.
They were a young team that had just lost 4 first-round picks off of its National Championship team.
After the game Carolina had the confidence of a team that could compete for an ACC title.
Rayshawn Terry and David Noel combined for 40 points and future ball boy Wes Miller also added 12 points. Kentucky was led by the late scoring of Rajon Rondo.
12/2/2006: #6 UNC 75 UK 63
UNC just started to have way too much talent for the Wildcats.
Randolph Morris was the Wildcats only real scoring option and UNC had three players with over 15 points.
UNC got 16 points from Reyshawn Terry, 16 points from Brandan “I am not John Henson” Wright, 17 points from Freshman Wayne Ellington, and 7 assists from the very fast Ty Lawson.
12/1/2007: #1 UNC 86 UK 77
UNC got big games from Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Wanye Ellington, Deon Thompson, Bobby Frazer, and Danny Green as they cruised past the same Wildcats team that lost to Gardner Webb just a few weeks earlier.
Kentucky was coached by Billy Gillispie…….
11/18/2008: #1 UNC 77 UK 58
I was at this game!
It was as boring as the score indicates.
The game consisted of UNC dunking a lot, Kentucky calling a lot of timeouts, and fans blaming me for Tyler Zeller’s broken nose.
The Heels were led by Deon Thompson, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Larry Drew (only kidding.)
Kentucky was still not coached by John Calipari……….
12/5/2009: #5 UK 68 #10 UNC 66
The John Wall game.
In the first half, John Wall made about three plays that made us question whether he was actually human or not.
In the second half, Wall got cramps and sat out for most of the half just to remind us that he was human.
Carolina had a furious second-half comeback that ended when Wall made his famous “I’ll step out of bounds but you won’t call it because I’m John Wall” play that ended in a lay-up that sank the Tar Heels' hopes.
A new era of Kentucky basketball had arrived. And then left after one year…..
The 2010's: Both Teams Have One Win
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12/4/2010: UNC 75 #10 UK 73
This is where UK’s infamous road-losing streak started.
Kentucky lost seven straight games on the road before snapping out of their funk against the low-down sweaty snitches of Tennessee.
Much like the game in 2005, this game served as a huge confidence builder for UNC and served as a reminder that they probably needed to bench Larry Drew.
Kentucky was led by the 24 points of Doron Lamb and the really bad interior defense of Eloy Vargas.
UNC got a 27-point performance from Tyler Zeller, a 13-point show from John Henson, and 10 straight points from preseason All-American Harrison Barnes.
After the game John Calipari talked a lot and Roy Williams drank a Pepsi.
3/27/2011: #11 UK 76 #7 UNC 69
The best game in the history of the UNC and UK series (even though the 1933 thriller comes pretty close.)
This game had dunks, big threes, one-and-dones, run and guns, awkward man hugs, pump fakes, Jorts, three goggles, and a lot of Barnes.
Two days after upsetting Jared Sullinger and Ohio State, Kentucky was able to shoot their way into the Final Four for the first time in 14 years.