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This Day In BBN History: March 23

Jon Scott/BigBlueHistory.net

Jon Scott/BigBlueHistory.net

In nearly three-quarters of a century, the Kentucky basketball program has participated in eight total games on March 23, with each coming during postseason play.

And in those eight instances, the Wildcats have pulled off victories each time, with seven of those games taking place in the NCAA Tournament.

One – the team’s first victory on March 23 – actually marked the first national championship in program history.

Here is a rundown of all of Kentucky’s victories on this day in history:

The Wildcats earn their first national title (1948)

72 years ago to the day, the Kentucky Wildcats took home their first national title.

In a matchup against Baylor, the Cats held the Bears to just 16 first-half points en route to a 58-42 victory at Madison Square Garden.

UK stars Alex Groza (14) and Ralph Beard (12) led the way with a combined 26 points, followed by nine points apiece from Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones and Kenneth Rollins.

Following an NIT title victory in 1946, the Wildcats became the second team in college basketball history to take home NIT and NCAA titles.

UK Athletics

Kentucky destroys Arizona State in the Sweet 16 (1995)

Fast forward to the Rick Pitino era at Kentucky, where the Wildcats participated in games on March 23 in back-to-back years.

The first? A blowout 97-73 victory over Arizona State in front of 17,458 fans in Birmingham, Alabama.

Tony Delk led the way with 26 points on 11 of 18 shooting, followed by Rodrick Rhodes with 16, Andre Riddick with 15, and Walter McCarty with 10 to round out double-digit scorers. On the day, the Wildcats also managed 27 assists, 12 steals, and just ten turnovers.

“We played a great game tonight,” Pitino said, via The New York Times. “We had tremendous respect for them because on film they were scary in transition. That respect made us play better. I don’t know who to single out. Everyone played great.”

Kentucky would go on to lose in the Elite Eight to North Carolina.

UK clobbers Wake Forest to advance to the Final Four (1996)

The second March 23 matchup of the Pitino era was a special one, as the Wildcats would wipe the floor with Wake Forest en route to the program’s 11th Final Four.

Like he did in 1995, Tony Delk led the Wildcats with 25 points on 9 of 13 shooting, followed by Anthony Epps and Derek Anderson with 12 apiece, along with 10 for Walter McCarty.

As a team, the Wildcats held Tim Duncan and the Demon Deacons to just 63 points on 36.2% shooting overall and 33.3% from three. They also forced Wake Forest to 19 turnovers compared to just 10 for Kentucky.

Check out the replay:

From there, the Wildcats would pull off back-to-back wins in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Cats knock off Utah to earn spot in Sweet 16 (2003)

Boasting a roster with five players who would go on to play in the NBA, Tubby Smith’s Wildcats – a one-seed in the Midwest – stormed out to a 31-point victory in the NCAA Tournament opener, and followed it up with a 74-54 blowout victory over Utah in the Round of 32.

In the win, Keith Bogans and Marquis Estill led the way 18 points, followed by Cliff Hawkins with 13 and Chuck Hayes with 10 to round out double-digit scorers. As a team, the Cats held the Utes to just 39.6% shooting overall and 28.6% from three, outrebounded them 33-22, and forced 14 turnovers.

As Mrs. Tyler Thompson wrote in her round-by-round “Best of UK in the NCAA” series, Kentucky allowed Utah to cut the lead to just nine with 11 minutes left, but the Cats responded with an 11-4 run to put the game out of reach.

Kentucky defeats Creighton in the NIT (2009)

The lone non-NCAA Tournament victory on March 23 came in one of the most trying years for Kentucky basketball in recent memory.

And it wasn’t even a pretty win.

Taking on one-seed Creighton in the second round of the NIT, the 22-13 Wildcats found themselves down 63-62 with just 12 seconds to go before Jodie Meeks finished with a clutch and-one layup to take the lead and ultimately win the game.

Meeks led the way with 16 points, followed by Perry Stevenson with 13 and Patrick Patterson with 12.

The Wildcats would then get defeated by Notre Dame in the NIT quarterfinals just one round later in what would be Billy Gillispie’s final game as head coach.

Instead of showing game footage of the Creighton win, here is Gillispie’s post-Notre Dame press conference where Jerry Tipton asked the former head coach about his job status.

Not long after, we got this historic moment…

Ah, memories.

Kentucky avenges regular season loss to Indiana, advances to Elite Eight (2012)

Christian Watford’s game-winning shot over Kentucky is one the Hoosier faithful annually celebrates with commemorative popcorn boxes and jabs on social media.

One convenient thing Indiana fans regularly leave out? While the Hoosiers gave the Cats their lone regular season loss of the season, UK also sent IU home in the NCAA Tournament just a few short months later.

In a back-and-forth battle, the Wildcats pulled off a 102-90 victory to move on to the Elite Eight.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the way with 24 points, followed by Doron Lamb with 21, Darius Miller with 19, Marquis Teague with 14, and Terrence Jones with 12 to round out an impressive five double-digit scorers.

You can watch the full game replay below:

UK upsets No. 1 seed Wichita State in the Round of 32 (2014)

In one of the most exciting NCAA Tournament games in the last decade, the Wildcats pulled off an upset victory over an undefeated Wichita State squad in a matchup John Calipari felt deserved to take place in the Elite Eight.

“I’ve been doing this so long. I’ve been in wars,” Calipari said following the victory. “You all understand this was an Elite Eight game. The winner of this should have gone to the Final Four.”

An excerpt from Mrs. Tyler Thompson’s “Best of UK in the NCAA” series

How could anyone forget this one? Wichita State was undefeated but Kentucky had a great story of their own to share. The Cats responded to every run the Shockers made, and in the final minutes, a team full of freshmen played with the poise of seniors. Nursing a sore elbow, Andrew Harrison finished with 20 points off 6-9 from the floor, 7-9 from the free-throw line. After scoring only two points in the first half, Julius Randle came alive in the second, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Here are the full game highlights:

Kentucky shuts down Fletcher Magee, defeats Wofford in Round of 32 (2019)

Fletcher Magee was the talk of the NCAA Tournament going into Kentucky’s second-round matchup against Wofford, with the Terriers even being seen as a trendy upset pick.

Instead, the Wildcats had other plans.

An excerpt from Mrs. Tyler Thompson’s “Best of UK in the NCAA” series

Kentucky shut down Wofford star Fletcher Magee, holding him to 4-17 from the floor, 0-12 from three-point range. With PJ Washington sidelined with a foot injury, only Reid Travis and Ashton Hagans scored in double figures, with 14 and 12, respectively.

Check out the extended highlights:

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

1 Comment for This Day In BBN History: March 23



  1. JASUN74
    9:20 pm March 23, 2020 Permalink

    The Wichita St. game will always be one of the best team wins in our history. Saying that is hard because of there being soo many to choose from, but the way we played as a overall team puts in in the top five to ten range for me. God love those kids. Lol. Just soooo much heart from them all season. I live Kentucky Basketball as much as air!! Haha.