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From the Pressbox: A look back at the UK-Notre Dame series

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Between 1960 and 1981, Kentucky and Notre Dame staged an annual New Year's Eve week matchup at Freedom Hall. To this day, many Big Blue fans fondly recall those games.

It wasn't surprising that coach Digger Phelps pulled the plug on that series, given the less-than-neutral setting. And with the annual rivalries UK has with Louisville and North Carolina (and hopefully Indiana again at some point), it's understandable why UK and ND don't play regularly. But as we prepare for the 61st all-time meeting between the Wildcats and the Fighting Irish on Thursday night in South Bend, it's a good time to reflect on the 10 most memorable games between them in my humble opinion.

1990: Notre Dame was looking for its third straight win over UK, something that had not happened since the early 1940s. In the final edition of the Big Four Classic, Kentucky put six players in double figures as Rick Pitino's second team rallied from two points down at halftime to win 98-90 at the Hooiser Dome. Richie Farmer's 19 points, including four 3s, led the way, offsetting the 21-point performance of ND's LaPhonso Ellis.

2003: For the first time in 11 meetings since 1988, Kentucky and Notre Dame entered this matchup at Rupp Arena with both of them ranked in the national polls. And the 16th-ranked Cats handily defeated the 10th-ranked Irish 88-73. Marquis Estill's 18 points paced four UK players in double figures, to counter the 29-point day for ND's Matt Carroll.

2010: Freedom Hall was the setting for this matchup for the first time since '88 and 17th-ranked UK handled the 23rd-ranked Irish with ease, 72-58, in the SEC-Big East Invitational. Terrence Jones poured in 27 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to help UK pull away from a 40-40 halftime tie.  

1968: For the first time since 1958, both teams came into the game ranked in the nation's top 10 and the Cats won a shootout, 110-90. Dan Issel's 31 point, 14-round performance paced UK and Phil Argento added 27.

1981: A year after Notre Dame had upset the second-ranked Cats, coach Phelps drew the ire of the UK fans and coaches by holding the ball, to give his unranked Irish a chance to upset the number two Wildcats. Kentucky led 18-12 at halftime and the game went to overtime tied at 23. Kentucky finally pulled it out in overtime, 34-28, with Melvin Turpin being the only Wildcat in double figures with 11 points. ND's John Paxson led all scorers with 12.

1977: Kentucky's top-ranked team put its perfect record on the line against a fourth-ranked Notre Dame squad that would eventually join the Cats at the Final Four in St. Louis come March.The '78 champs were one of the best shooting teams ever at UK but they struggled with 42-percent field-goal shooting this night. Still, led by the 18 points apiece from Jack Givens and Kyle Macy, Kentucky prevailed, 73-68, thanks to 25-of-28 shooting at the free throw line.

1969: Until Jodie Meeks' 46 point-day against Appalachian State in 2008, the record for most points by a Wildcat in a game at Freedom Hall came out of this 1969 matchup.  Mike Pratt made 16 of 26 from the field and was 10-10 at the line en route to a career-best 42 points. Issel added 35 in the 102-100 UK win. Austin Carr had 43 in a losing effort for the Irish.

1976: Some will tell you that Joe Hall's '77 team was as good as the one that would win the national title the next season and those Cats flashed that kind of quality in a 102-78 rout of the second-ranked Irish. Givens poured in 30 points on 15 of 19 shooting as UK raced to a 53-32 halftime lead and never looked back. This game came on the eve of Kentucky's first bowl game in 25 years and thousands of Cat fans gathered in a hotel room ballroom in Atlanta to cheer their Cats to this unexpectedly lopsided victory.

1978: NBC's Al McGuire proclaimed "a star is born" as freshman Dwight Anderson almost single-handedly rallied No. 13 UK to an 81-76 win over the second-ranked Irish in a top 10 matchup at Freedom Hall. Notre Dame's 2-3 zone had stymied the Cats in the second half until Hall put Anderson at the high post and let him use his quickness to break down the defense. "The Blur" scored 17 points as UK defeated an ND team that featured several future NBA players.

1970: In the rematch of that entertaining shootout from December, Issel out-gunned Carr as Kentucky scored a 109-99 win in the NCAA Tournament. Issel hit 17-of-28 shots on the way to a 44-point, 11-rebound performance while Carr poured in 52 points in defeat.

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