It a great week for a little Wildcat History as Kentucky gets set to battle a couple of old rivals from the Hoosier state, beginning with tonight’s tiff with the lovable Catholics from South Bend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Believe it or not, the Cats and the Irish actually have more history between them than do Kentucky and Saturday’s opponent, meeting tonight for the 60th time in series history. The Cats, not surprisingly, hold an all-time record of 41-18 against Notre Dame. The two programs, of course, last met in the final game of the downtrodden Billy Gillispie Era, a quarterfinal NIT matchup that hosted by the Irish that saw them defeat the Cats and advance to Madison Square Garden to play for a postseason championship that really doesn’t matter this day in age.
Prior to that meeting on March 25, 2009, however, the Cats had defeated the Irish ten consecutive times – and 19 of the previous 22.
Tonight’s matchup, as you may have heard, will be played within the friendly confines of Freedom Hall, which recently got a Big Blue facelift. Considering that the Cats hold an all-time record of 122-33 in the city of Louisville, and a 58-18 all-time record at Freedom Hall, it seems only fair that there’s a Blue court now featured somewhere within the Derby City.
In addition, Louisville has also played host to 32 previous Kentucky-Notre Dame matchups, with the Cats holding a mark of 23-9 in those contests.
In a bit of sad news (at least to me), I recently discovered that the annual Kentucky-Notre Dame game featured the Shivley Memorial Plaque during the years of 1967-81, an award that was named in honor of former UK Athletic Director Bernie Shivley, and given to the MVP of the annual contest between the two friendly rivals. With names like Macy, Givens, Pratt, Casey, and the late Mel Turpin etched into the Plaque, I, for one, would have loved to have seen this tradition carried on as yet another way to continue to bridge the gap between UK greats, both old and new.
Turning our attention to Saturday for a few moments, the Cats will welcome the cream and crimson candy striped pant wearers from Indiana University onto the hallowed floor of Rupp Arena for the second straight Saturday contest between two of the bluebloods in college basketball lore. The Cats hold an all time record of 30-23 against their neighbors to the north, and have won 13 of the previous 16 contests with the Hoosiers.
This game, of course, was for many years played on a rotating basis between Indianapolis and Louisville, with the arena split down the middle, one side wearing crimson and the other wearing blue. In a recurring theme with this week’s TWIWH, I would have loved to have seen this neutral site setup continue, as the pageantry and tournament-like atmosphere provided was second to none. But, no one asked me, so they’ll once again be playing this one on campus (or close enough to it), where the Cats hold an all-time mark of 7-1 against the Hoosiers, spotting them their lone victory in the final year of the Eddie Sutton regime, a 13-18 campaign that we’d all like to forget ever happened.
So get your Ale-8’s ready for tonight’s late tip-off and sleep through the rest of the week until it’s time to enjoy Saturday’s game. Next week is finals week, and it’s going to be a slow one for those of us who’d rather be watching some hoops.