Celebrating 40 Years: Top-10 Players, Games in Rupp History
This Sunday will mark the 40th anniversary of the first regular season game ever played at Rupp Arena. On November 27th, 1976, the Wildcats, ranked No. 6 in the Preseason Associated Press Poll, defeated the Wisconsin Badgers 72-64. Kentucky was led in scoring by Rick Robey's 13 points. Not surprisingly, the first game at Rupp Arena was a sellout, with 23,266 Big Blue faithful in attendance. With a program that has unparalleled history and tradition, there have been many great Kentucky players who have participated in many great games at Rupp Arena over the last 40 years. I will narrow it down to the top 10 Kentucky players and the top ten Kentucky home games since the 1976-1977 season, all in chronological order. Let the debate begin.
Greatest players of the Rupp Arena era
Jack "Goose" Givens (1974-78)
• Career statistics: 2,038 points (fourth most in school history), 793 rebounds (12th most in school history), 270 assists (28th most in school history)
• Accolades: Three-time All-SEC selection, three-time All-American selection, 1978 Helms National Player of the Year, 1978 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Retired Jersey (No. 21)
• Great Rupp Arena moment: In the first game of his senior season, Givens recorded a double-double, with 30 points and 13 rebounds, as the No. 2 Wildcats defeated SMU 110-86.
Kyle Macy (1977-80)
• Career statistics: 1,411 points (21st most in school history), 243 rebounds, 470 assists (sixth most in school history), .89 free-throw percentage (second best in school history)
• Accolades: Three-time All-SEC selection, three-time All-American selection, 1979 SEC Tournament MVP, 1980 SEC Player of the Year, Retired Jersey (No. 4)
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Dec. 9th, 1978, and the No. 10 Wildcats trailing No. 5 Kansas 66-64 in overtime, Macy received a stolen pass from Dwight Anderson and made a 15-foot jumper to tie the game at 66. Kansas then received a technical foul after calling for a timeout that they did not have. Macy calmly knocked down the technical foul free throw and Kentucky escaped with a miraculous 67-66 comeback victory.
Kenny Walker (1982-86)
• Career statistics: 2,080 points (second most in school history), 942 rebounds (sixth most in school history), 153 assists, 122 blocks (16th most in school history), 31 double-doubles (tied for 4th most in school history)
• Accolades: Four-time All-SEC selection, two-time All-American selection, two-time SEC Player of the Year (1985 and 1986), Retired Jersey (No. 34)
• Great Rupp Arena moment: In his final game at Rupp Arena, Walker recorded a double-double, with 20 points and 12 rebounds, as the No. 3 Wildcats erased a 3-point halftime deficit to defeat Alabama, 83-72, in the 1986 SEC Tournament Championship.
Rex Chapman (1986-88)
• Career statistics: 1,073 points (50th most in school history), 159 rebounds, 220 assists (39th most in school history), 89 steals (39th most in school history)
• Accolades: Two-time All-SEC selection, All-American selection, 1988 SEC Tournament MVP
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Feb. 11, 1987, freshman Chapman capped a furious rally by the Wildcats, trailing Tennessee by 10 with 1:13 left, by making a 12-foot jumper with three seconds left to send the game into overtime. Kentucky went on to defeat the Volunteers, 91-84, with Chapman scoring a game-high 26 points.
Jamal Mashburn (1990-93)
• Career statistics: 1,843 points (6th most in school history), 760 rebounds (18th most in school history), 218 assists (40th most in school history), 153 steals (tied for 14th most in school history), 53 blocks (tied for 36th most in school history)
• Accolades: Three-time All-SEC selection, two-time All-American selection, 1992 SEC Tournament MVP, 1993 SEC Player of the Year, Retired Jersey (No. 24)
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Dec. 8, 1992, Mashburn had the best statistical game of his collegiate career, recording career highs in both points (38) and rebounds (19), as the No. 3 Wildcats defeated Eastern Kentucky, 82-73.
Tony Delk (1992-96)
• Career statistics: 1,890 points (fifth most in school history), 470 rebounds, 210 assists (45th most in school history), 201 steals (second most in school history), 283 made 3-point field-goals (most in school history)
• Accolades: Three-time All-SEC selection, All-American selection, 1996 SEC Player of the Year, 1996 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Retired Jersey (No. 00)
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Jan. 20, 1996, Delk made a then-school record nine 3-point field goals as the No. 2 Wildcats defeated TCU, 124-80. Delk scored a game-high 27 points.
Tayshaun Prince (1998-2002)
• Career statistics: 1,775 points (eighth most in school history), 759 rebounds (19th most in school history), 255 assists (32nd most in school history), 142 blocks (10th most in school history), 111 steals (29th most in school history), 204 made 3-point field-goals (third most in school history)
• Accolades: Three-time All-SEC selection, two-time All-American selection, 2001 SEC Player of the Year, 2001 SEC Tournament MVP
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Dec. 8th, 2001, Prince blew the roof off of Rupp Arena when he made five consecutive 3-point field goals to start the game, with the fifth coming near the midcourt logo, as No. 11 Kentucky defeated North Carolina, 79-59. Prince scored a game-high 31 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
Keith Bogans (1999-2003)
• Career statistics: 1,923 points (fourth most in school history), 553 rebounds (38th most in school history), 314 assists (15th most in school history), 155 steals (12th most in school history), 254 made 3-point field-goals (secnd most in school history)
• Accolades: Two-time All-SEC selection, All-America selection, 2003 SEC Player of the Year, 2003 SEC Tournament MVP
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Feb. 1, 2000, freshman Bogans made four 3-point field-goals in the game's first 10 minutes on his way to a then-career high 25 points as the No. 14 Wildcats upset No. 6 Tennessee, 81-68.
John Wall (2009-2010)
• Career statistics: 616 points (third most by a freshman in school history), 159 rebounds (21st most by a freshman in school history), 241 assists (secnd most in a season in school history), 66 steals (second most by a freshman in school history)
• Accolades: All-America selection, All-SEC selection, USBWA National Freshman Of the Year, Rupp National Player Of the Year, 2010 SEC Player Of the Year, 2010 SEC Tournament MVP
• Great Rupp Arena moment: It didn't take long for Wall to make an impression. On Nov. 16th, 2009, in his first career game, Wall made a 14-foot step-back jumper with 0.5 seconds left to lead the No. 4 Wildcats to a 72-70 victory over Miami (Ohio). Wall scored a team-high 19 points.
Anthony Davis (2011-12)
• Career statistics: 567 points (eighth most by a freshman in school history), 415 rebounds (second most by a freshman in school history), 50 assists, 54 steals (third most by a freshman in school history), 186 blocks (most in a single season in school history)
• Accolades: All-America selection, All-SEC selection, Consensus National Player of the Year, NABC National Defensive Player of the Year, USBWA National Freshman of the Year, 2012 SEC Player of the Year, 2012 Final Four Most Outstanding Player
• Great Rupp Arena moment: On Dec. 3, 2011, with No. 2 Kentucky clinging to a slim 73-72 lead over No. 5 North Carolina, Davis showed off his defensive prowess, blocking John Henson's jumper with seven seconds left to seal the victory for the Wildcats.
Greatest home games of the Rupp Arena era
Dec. 9, 1978: No. 10 Kentucky 67, No. 5 Kansas 66 (overtime) – Attendance: 23,472
• The Wildcats needed a miraculous final-minute comeback to defeat the Jayhawks, trailing Kansas 66-60 with just 31 seconds left, and a miraculous comeback is just what they got. Freshman Dwight Anderson made a basket to cut the lead to 66-62, and was fouled on the play. Anderson missed the free-throw, but was fouled after scrambling for the rebound off the miss. This time, Anderson calmly made both free throws to cut the deficit to 66-64. Anderson provided some heroics yet again when he stole the Jayhawks' inbounds pass and deflected the ball to Kyle Macy, who made a 15-foot jumper with four seconds left to tie the game at 66. Kansas' Darnell Valentine then called a timeout when the Jayhawks did not have any timeouts remaining, which resulted in a technical foul free throw for Kentucky. Senior Macy calmly made the free throw as the Wildcats finished the miracle comeback, defeating the Jayhawks 67-66.
Dec. 15, 1979: No. 5 Kentucky 69, No. 1 Indiana 58 – Attendance: 23,798
• The top-ranked Hoosiers, led by legendary coach Bobby Knight, raced out to a 13-point lead over the Wildcats in the first half. Kentucky chipped away at the deficit, trailing by just three points, 39-36, at halftime. The second half was dominated by Kentucky, with the Wildcats outscoring the Hoosiers 33-19, as they upset No. 1 Indiana, 69-58. Senior Kyle Macy led the team in scoring with 12 points, but it was another senior, Jay Shidler, who provided a spark for the Wildcats off the bench. Shidler scored 11 points, tied for second most on the team. Kentucky won the game with defense, limiting Indiana to just 34.7-percent shooting from the field, and its domination on the glass, resulting in a plus-13 rebounding margin. This was the second time in school history that Kentucky had defeated a team ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll, and the first time they had done so on its home court.
March 1, 1981: No. 9 Kentucky 73, No. 2 LSU 71 – Attendance: 24,011
• The No. 2 LSU Tigers came into Rupp Arena on Kentucky's Senior Day riding a wave of momentum, and a chance at history. The Tigers had won 26 consecutive games, and were 17-0 in SEC play, trying to have a perfect regular season in conference play. The Tigers had dominated the Wildcats earlier in the regular season with a convincing 81-67 win in Baton Rouge, and Kentucky wanted revenge. The Wildcats shot well in the first half, making 55.2 percent of its field-goal attempts, and raced out to a 10-point lead at one point, with LSU cutting the lead to six points, 36-30, at halftime. Kentucky then needed some defensive heroics towards the end of the game to seal the victory. With five seconds left, and the Wildcats leading 73-71, LSU's Howard Carter went up for an eight-foot jump shot to try and tie the game. But sophomore sensation Sam Bowie had other thoughts, blocking Carter's game-tying attempt and providing Kentucky with a thrilling 73-71 victory.
Jan. 22, 1984: No. 3 Kentucky 74, No. 4 Houston 67 – Attendance: 23,992
• On Super Bowl Sunday 1984, No. 3 Kentucky took on No. 4 Houston in a match-up of top-five teams worthy of a college basketball version of a Super Bowl. Both teams played well in the previous season, with Kentucky reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, and Houston reaching the national championship game. The game was hyped up as a battle of great centers, with Kentucky's "Twin Towers" of Sam Bowie and Melvin Turpin going up against Houston's Akeem (now Hakeem) Olajuwon. The Cougars tried to deliver a knockout punch in the first moments of the game, racing out to an 11-1 lead over the Wildcats. But Kentucky didn't back down, outscoring Houston 34-20 over the remainder of the first half to take a 35-31 lead into intermission. Kentucky's lead grew to 10 points with 7:56 remaining in the game, and victory seemed a formality when Olajuwon fouled out of the game with 6:14 remaining. Houston didn't give up though, cutting Kentucky's lead to just three points behind the play of Alvin Franklin. But that's as close as the Cougars could get as the Wildcats battled to a hard-fought 74-67 victory. The Wildcats' trio of Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin and Kenny Walker combined to score 47 points and pull down 39 rebounds. Kentucky held Houston to just 34.7-percent shooting from the field, including holding Cougars' star Michael Young to just 8-of-25 shooting.
March 24, 1984: No. 3 Kentucky 54, No. 6 Illinois 51 – NCAA Tournament Mideast Regional Final –Attendance: 23,525
• The No. 3 Wildcats could not have asked for a better situation, playing for a chance at their first Final Four appearance in six years on their home court. Kentucky and Illinois had played earlier in the regular season, with the Wildcats winning a thriller in Champaign, 56-54. This regional final turned out to be yet another classic between the two teams. Illinois dictated the pace early in the game, with 23 combined points scored in the game's first 14 minutes. The game was back and forth, with Kentucky's largest leads being five points in the first half and seven points in the second half. The Wildcats' Dicky Beal made a jump shot at the buzzer to give Kentucky a 24-22 lead at halftime. With 43 seconds remaining, it was senior Beal who provided the dagger for Kentucky. With the Wildcats leading by two points, Beal took the in-bounds pass up the floor, dribbled through a trap, and raced all the way to the basket for a layup to put Kentucky up by four points. The Wildcats ended up winning the game, 54-51, and made their first Final Four appearance since 1978.
Feb. 15, 1990: Kentucky 100, No. 9 LSU 95 – Attendance: 24,301
• In front of a then-school record 24,301 fans crammed into Rupp Arena, the Wildcats were facing a tall task, both literally and figuratively. The Tigers were led by the dynamic duo of freshman big man Shaquille O'Neal and sophomore super scorer Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Adbul-Rauf). The Tigers had defeated the Wildcats earlier in the regular season, 94-81, in Baton Rouge. Kentucky overwhelmed LSU with its patented full-court pressure defense early in the game, racing out to an impressive 23-point lead, 41-18, with 6:24 remaining in the first half. Then, Jackson almost single-handedly brought the Tigers all the way back, scoring a game-high 41 points, to bring LSU within two points with 1:12 remaining. But it was sophomore Richie Farmer who sealed the victory for Kentucky. Farmer made six free throws in the final 1:05 of the game, leading the Wildcats to a 100-95 upset victory over the Tigers. Fans who were at that game still claim that it is the loudest that Rupp Arena has ever been. O'Neal fouled out of the game with 6:52 remaining in the second half. Kentucky was balanced on offense, with six players scoring in double figures, led by senior Derrick Miller's 29 points.
Dec. 12, 1998: No. 5 Kentucky 103, No. 2 Maryland 91 – Attendance: 24,321
• The defending national champion Wildcats hosted the highest-ranked opponent to play at Rupp Arena in nearly 19 years when the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins came into Lexington. Known for their stifling pressure defense, the Terrapins led the nation in field-goal percentage defense heading into the game (33.1 percent). The Wildcats had no problem with their defense, shooting an impressive 54.2 percent from the field to knock off Maryland, 103-91. Kentucky raced out to a 13-point lead at halftime, and the lead grew to 17 points early in the second half. The Wildcats had to hold off the Terrapins though as a Terence Morris 3-pointer cut Kentucky's lead to just four points with 52 seconds remaining. Kentucky sealed the game at the charity stripe, making 9-of-10 free-throw attempts in the final minute of the game to seal the victory. The Wildcats were led by their senior trio of Heshimu Evans, Scott Padgett and Wayne Turner, who combined to score 73 points, pull down 22 rebounds, and dish out 14 assists.
Feb. 4, 2003: No. 6 Kentucky 70, No. 1 Florida 55 – Attendance: 24,459
• In front of a then-school record 24,459 fans at Rupp Arena, the No. 6 Wildcats welcomed just the second team ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll to ever play at Rupp Arena, and the first to do so in over 23 years, when the Florida Gators came into town. Kentucky were not the nicest of hosts though, overwhelming the Gators early in the game with a suffocating defense, and a barrage of 3-pointers and dunks, which led to an incredible 23-point lead at halftime for the Wildcats. Kentucky went on a 22-2 run late in the first half that led to that large lead. Much to the dismay of Florida, Kentucky continued to pour it on, growing the lead to 29 points with 12:49 remaining in the game. Head coach Tubby Smith had the Wildcats play conservatively after that, with Kentucky waltzing to a 70-55 victory, the Wildcats' first win over the No. 1 team since the 1996 Final Four. Senior Keith Bogans led the team in scoring with 15 points.
Dec. 3, 2011: No. 1 Kentucky 73, No. 5 North Carolina 72 – Attendance: 24,398
• The top-ranked Wildcats welcomed the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels to Lexington in the first matchup of top five teams in Rupp Arena in 13 years. Kentucky was sluggish early, and North Carolina took advantage, leading by as many as nine points with 6:52 remaining in the first half. The Wildcats cut into the lead, trailing by five points entering intermission. In a span of 13 minutes in the second half, Kentucky went on a 24-13 run to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the second half at five points with 3:47 left in the game. The Tar Heels' Reggie Bullock made a 3-pointer with 49 seconds remaining to cut Kentucky's lead to just one point, 73-72. Marquis Teague missed a free throw with 21 seconds remaining, and North Carolina had the ball and a chance to tie or win the game. But freshman sensation Anthony Davis came up big on defense when it mattered most. John Henson attempted a 15-foot jumper with seven seconds left, but it never made it to the rim as Davis blocked his shot, and Davis also came up with the rebound to seal the victory for the Wildcats. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the team in scoring with 17 points.
Dec. 31, 2011: No. 3 Kentucky 69, No. 4 Louisville 62 – Attendance: 24,387
• No. 3 Kentucky welcomed its intrastate rival, No. 4 Louisville, into Rupp Arena on New Year's Eve with both teams ranked in the Top Five of the Associated Press Poll for the first time ever entering their matchup. The Cardinals got the first two points of the game, but the Wildcats outscored Louisville 31-14 over the next 14 minutes, giving Kentucky its largest lead of the game at 15 points. Louisville responded though, going on a 17-5 run in the final five minutes of the first half, which cut Kentucky's lead to just three points heading into halftime. Kentucky used another run in the second half, 25-12 in a span of 13 minutes, to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the second half at 13 points. The Wildcats then cruised to a 69-62 victory over the rival Cardinals. Kentucky overcame a poor shooting performance, just 29.8-percent from the field, by dismantling Louisville on the glass, resulting in an astounding plus-26 rebounding margin. The freshman dynamic duo of Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist provided the difference for Kentucky, combining to score 42 points and pull down 29 rebounds.