“N” is for NCAA basketball tourney

Yes, we’ve talked about basketball before.  Yes, we’ve talked about the 1982 basketball from a Blue Raiders’ victory over the University of Kentucky Wildcats before.  Now, we’re going to let others talk about this victory and its importance.

Kent Syler, Political Science Faculty Member and Special Projects Coordinator here at the Albert Gore Research Center, took the basketball with him as he did political analysis for Channel 4 WSMV Nashville. The news team had some time to talk at the end of the broadcast, click on the photograph below to see what they had to say about it.

WSMV clip

Video courtesy of WSMV Channel 4 Nashville

When Vanderbilt University talks about memorable events at their Memorial Gymnasium, they, too, mention the game between the Blue Raiders and the Wildcats.  From 60 Moments at Memorial Gym: 1-12, we give you moment #6. 

In what was and still is regarded as the biggest basketball win in MTSU’s history, the Blue Raiders upset Kentucky, 50-44, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 11, 1982.

“I’ll be honest,” MTSU Head Coach Stan Simpson quipped. “We had to win this one, because I didn’t have a ticket for Saturday’s game.”

A near-capacity crowd of 14,761 was on hand in what many believed would be a tuneup for the Wildcats, who would play a much-anticipated game with Louisville in the second round. Tickets for the assumed matchup between Kentucky and Louisville were being scalped for $50 outside the gym, but after the MTSU upset, the tickets were being given away in handfuls for a few dollars.

“I really don’t think we were looking ahead,” Kentucky Head Coach Joe B. Hall said. “I just think they were more mentally ready to play. Our confidence faded some as they did some things to preserve their lead and their victory.”

MTSU’s Rick Campbell scored 19 points and Jerry Beck had 14. No Kentucky player scored in double figures. MTSU won despite making just 10-of-18 free throws.

Wrote Tennessean writer Jimmy Davy after the game: “On this memorable occasion the calf ate the butcher. And in all fairness, the score of the slaughter was not as bad as it could have been.”

So this was an amazing victory for MTSU, but don’t just take our word for it! Go Blue Raiders!

Special thanks to MTSU’s Kennon Sports Hall of Fame who entrust the AGRC with their artifacts when not on exhibit.
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