View Full Version : 1976-77 UK Basketball Season

Zakk Wyldcat
05-08-2006, 05:06 PM
Let us now turn attention to the 1976-77 UK basketball season, one which is largely forgotten and rarely mentioned by UK faithful(maybe for good reason as I see it as a season of ‘lost’ opportunity). I recently finished(for about the 10th time)the excellent ‘Year With The Cats: From Breathitt County to The White House’ a recap of the ‘76-’77 season by Dave Kindred. It provides an in-depth, ‘all-access’ look at the season, players and coaches. That UK team finished 26-4, losing to UNC in the East Region final in which Dean Smith may or may not have called Rick Robey an ‘SOB’.

The season started in fine fashion as UK got off to a 6-0 start before losing the UKIT final to Utah. Three players were suspended for that game(Phillips, Shidler, Claytor)later prompting Coach Hall to speculate that this was the seed for some division within the team. UK came right back and crushed #2 Notre Dame in Louisville 102-78, giving Digger a well-deserved bit of comeuppance.

SEC play began with 2 victories, then Hall’s own personal Khan, Ray Mears, and unranked UT paid a visit to Lexington. Ranked #2 in America, UK dropped close one in OT, 71-67. Leading late in the game and with momentum on UK’s side, some bozo(s) in the Rupp Arena stands threw some oranges onto the floor, resulting in stoppage and play and ending UK’s momentum. With the chance to recover, UT caught the Cats in regulation and pulled away in OT.

Falling to #6 in the polls, the Cats then reeled off 14 straight wins climbing back to the #2 ranking heading into a showdown vs. #11 UT in Knoxville with the SEC title and a berth in the Mideast Regional to be held in Lexington on the line. The Cats jumped out to an early lead and had an 11 point edge into the second half before stumbling late and succumbing to the Stokely Center curse, dropping another close one, 81-79. So, in the final SEC standings, UK and UT both finished 14-2, but since UT won both contests vs. UK, they were crowned SEC champs, receiving a bid to the NCAAs as the SEC champ and a spot in the Mideast Region. UK, meanwhile, was sent to the East Region in Philadelphia.

Heading into NCAA play, #6 UK was expected to easily reach the region final and they did, whipping Princeton and VMI to set up a heavyweight match against #5 UNC. UNC jumped out to an early lead, forcing UK to play catch-up for most of the game. They did. Trailing 55-43 with 19:08 to go, UNC guard Phil Ford got his 4th foul. UK quickly got to 59-53 with 15:09 to play, leading Dean Smith to go into his patented ‘four-corners’ offense AKA ‘chicken-ball’. Patiently, UK further closed in, getting to within 1 point with 36 seconds left, 73-72. From there, UK was forced to foul, UNC converted the free throws to win 79-72, ending UK’s season in disappointing fashion.

Looking back, it seems that UK dug its own grave with its inability to beat Tennessee. Had they only beaten UT once, UK would’ve been at home in Rupp for the Mideast Region and, most likely, a Final Four berth. Even so, UK faced an injury decimated UNC team(Walter Davis-bad finger, Tom LaGarde-broken leg, Phil Ford-bad elbow)and still could not defeat the hated Tar Heels. For the record, UT lost in the first round of the tournament, UNC-Charlotte won the Mideast Region, UNC lost to Marquette in the NCAA Final.

Anyone with recollection of this season, please post your rememberances and thoughts.

Lost Highway
05-08-2006, 05:45 PM
Excellent topic. I agree with you this was "A Season of Lost Opportunity" and our Achilles heel was losing to UT twice. One in OTand the other by 2points. I think the Cats should have made the Final Four that year and possibly won the National Championship. I guess the loss in the NCAA made the 1978 team even more determined to win it all. I hated Dean Smith's stall ball and I think Rick Robey and Dean Smith almost got into a fistfight.

Some other highlights. A 50 point win, a 113 point game against Vandy and 88.3 shooting per cent in the second half against Mississippi State. We had a big man who could shoot free throws (Robey hit11 for 11 against State)

Kyle Macy had to sit out his redshirt that season. With Kyle, maybe we would have won it all. The 1976-77 team was a powerful team and it was, for the most part a fun season with high powered offense. Jack Givens had a great season.

05-08-2006, 08:21 PM
That year, that team, was the first time I actually seen a wildcat in person. I will never forget it. I still have those fuzzy pictures taken with a 110 camera and the autographs I collected that day. I was in awe. It was at the open practice that they had for the annual Notre Dame game here in Louisville. My mom took me out to Freedom Hall. They had the striped warm-ups that year ( you know the ones that IU can't seem to get rid of ). I even have a picture and autograph from Cawood Ledford from that day.

KY Blue in Carolina
05-09-2006, 07:14 AM
My freshman year.......

It's all a little hazy.. ;)

05-09-2006, 12:41 PM
This was one of the more painful losses I remember. John Keuster saved the day for UNC. He was the back up point guard. He came in and ran the four corners to perfection and was 13-14 from the FT line. I can remember being so angry about the 4 corners and the frustration with it. But it was a good strategy by Smith to use, especially after the injury to Ford and he knew he was undermanned and needed to shorten the game. John Scott has an excellent account of this game on his web site. He has game story article written by Tony Kornheiser for this game and it brought back a lot for me. That UK team was an excellent team. They just couldn't beatthe Ernie & Bernie Show of UT. That in the end cost them a Final Four.This team came back the next year in tact except for Larry Johnson. But he was replaced by Kyle Macy who was the difference maker for that 1978 team.

Brian McCat
05-09-2006, 10:49 PM
That was my first season to be a UK fan. First listened to the Cats beat Georgia 64-59 (i think) in Athens on a cold, cold, cold January night.

I too remember the devastation of losing to the Bernie and Ernie Show twice, as well as the frustrating loss to UNC.

I still have the "Year with the Cats" book, as well as the 33 LP record narrated by Cawood with his best calls of the season. The best part is the Star Wars disco soundtrack in the background.

Hall dealt with a little discipline that season. Shidler, Phillips, and I think Williams all got suspended for undisclosed indiscretions in December. Hall also was all over James Lee for gaining 8 pounds over the Thanksgiving holiday. Then there was a well-publicized car crash that Dwane Casey was involved in.

Fun memories.

05-10-2006, 11:59 AM
You guys are forgetting one of the most painful parts of the UNC game. We fouled Yonaker twice at the end of the game. Both times it was a one-and-one. Yonaker was a 55% free throw shooter. He made all four. If he missed just one of them, the game is tied and we go into overtime.

The Old School JPS
05-10-2006, 01:12 PM
Brian McCat wrote:
First listened to the Cats beat Georgia 64-59 (i think) in Athens on a cold, cold, cold January night.

January 1977 was incredibly cold. We had a ton of snow here, too.

I think that's when Frankfort flooded, too.

05-10-2006, 01:22 PM
Enough time has passed that some of that pain has eased. A hatred for UNC has remained. I can only remember how excited I was to to see the Wildcats with my own eyes.

05-11-2006, 07:51 AM
I attended every home game that season. Oh how I hated Enie & Bernie!

06-09-2006, 08:10 PM
I remember this was the first year of the Rupp Arena era and they beat Wisconsin in the first game. It was closer than many expected but UK won in the end.

A couple of weeks later they dedicated Rupp Arena with the Baron present. If I remember correctly, he had a blue living room type chair at midcourt. Fittingly they played Kansas that night and absolutely blew them out 90-63. Sadly, a year later with UK playing at Kansas, he died.

Terry L. Wildcat
10-16-2006, 12:57 AM
Zakk...one of the most painful losses of my Wildcat life...however, nice recap.

The Old School JPS
10-20-2006, 03:51 PM
Brian McCat wrote:
I still have the "Year with the Cats" book, as well as the 33 LP record narrated by Cawood with his best calls of the season. The best part is the Star Wars disco soundtrack in the background.

:lol:Now that is funny stuff.

Brian McCat
10-21-2006, 09:58 PM
The Old School JPS wrote:
Brian McCat wrote:
I still have the "Year with the Cats" book, as well as the 33 LP record narrated by Cawood with his best calls of the season. The best part is the Star Wars disco soundtrack in the background.

:lol:Now that is funny stuff.

Yeah, definitely.

I cried when Tennessee beat the Cats to close the regular season, and when North Carolina pulled the four corners.

12-07-2006, 09:21 AM
Was a sophomore at UK that season. Was at the ORANGES Rupp game (was NOT the one throwing them, but WANTED to).

Wasn't that the game that we fouled the little used sub at the end of the game (who shot less than 50%) and Grunfeld (who led the nation in FT shooting) stepped up and shot them. Wasn't THAT what prompted the oranges? I've never been so livid in my life as I was at that moment.