Today Marks the 75th Anniversary of Kentucky’s First NCAA Title


From The Courier-Journal, March 24, 1948, written by Larry Boeck, Courier-Journal Staff Writer.

New York City, March 23 – The eyes of Texas were upon Baylor last night, but, unfortunately for the Lone Star Staters, so were the covetous eyes of Kentucky’s Wildcats.

The Wildcats, who have been greedily eyeing their first N.C.A.A. championship ever since the tournament began, finally achieved it by walloping the Bears from Waco, Texas.

And, in disposing of Baylor 58-42, the Wildcats set one record and tied another as they rolled comparatively unhampered into Saturday night’s opening round Olympic Trials against Louisville’s Cardinals.

For one thing. the Wildcats became the second quintet to have won both the N.C.A.A. and National Invitational crowns. That tied Utah which was the first outfit to accomplish the feat.

Secondly, the ‘Cats set a new team scoring record for the N.C.A.A. meet. Their 194 tallies amassed at the expense of Columbia (76-63), Holy Cross (60-52), and Baylor smashed by 15 points the record set by Oklahoma A. and B. in 1945. That year the Aggies wracked up 179 points.

But those weren’t the only honors the Wildcats achieved in electrifying New York fans with their near-perfect play here. One of their members, towering six-feet-seven, versatile Alex Groza was voted “most valuable player of the tournament” by the small army of writers covering the meet.

And big Alex. turning in magnificent work in the scoring department as well as under the boards, earned every accolade bestowed upon him.
So did all the Wildcats, for that matter—Ralph Beard, the intensive workman; Wah Wah Jones, the scrapping. aggressive big man; Kenny Rollins, setter-up of plays and master defensive craftsman, and Cliff Barker, tricky, ball-stealing, alert spark plug.

Kentucky Baylor 1948 Boxscore

Alex, however, couldn’t help but clinch the “Most Valuable” award after his work of tonight, his third straight great game.

With his mates never seriously threatened after having pulled away to a 17-point, early first-half lead, Groza led them in scoring with 14 markers. Coupled with the 23 and 17 he cashed in the other games. he thus became the leading Wildcat scorer for the meet with 54 points.

Groza was more than just a point manufacturer, however. He was up there in the stratosphere most of the time, too, to capture those all-important rebounds.

The Wildcats didn’t win quite as easily as the score might indicate. And they didn’t look quite as sharp, alert, mobile, and polished as they had during their two previous tilts.

Baylor’s Bears, who played strictly a slow-moving, possession type of ball during most of the first half, had a lot to do with making the Wildcats look less spectacular.

Rupp’s rifles, however, still were hot enough to impress upon the minds of 16,174 Madison Square Garden fans the fact that they are, indeed, the scourge of the nation’s hardwood.

They were sloppy at times in ball handling, it’s true, and didn’t get as many of the offensive rebounds as their height should have earned them. Defensively, Alex was in there snaring ’em.

On the offense, however, he was out toward the side on numerous occasions and couldn’t get under. 

But it didn’t matter too much.

After having grabbed that early lead, the Wildcats merely had to do a workmanlike job to throttle the Bears.

Only twice, about midway in the second half and early in the same canto, did Baylor stage anything like a rally. And those weren’t serious threats. For the Wildcats, who wanted desperately to claim the national title this year after being upset by Utah last season in the Invitational,
wouldn’t let down.

Each time the Bears drew close -………once within 10 points and the other time within nine — the Wildcats knuckled back to work.

The 17-point lead in the first half, in the final analysis, made the Bears just so much meat for the Wildcats.

Playing a slow, deliberate game, passing a lot, and not taking many shots, the Bears had to ‘ wait until after seven and one-half minutes of play elapsed before they could tab their first field goal.

Don Heathington, the first Bear to break through Kentucky’s tight, alert defense, scored a crip.  Coupled with a free throw conversion, that gave Baylor three points.

But U.K. meanwhile, was hooping in 13, thanks to Groza, Barker, and Beard.

At the end of 10 minutes, it was Kentucky 18-5, and shortly thereafter 24-7, a big margin of 17 tallies.

The Wildcats, momentarily, seemed to relax, although none of the regulars were yanked.  Their passing, accuracy, and shooting fell off, too.   And Baylor, realizing it would have to change its offense to make up that point deficit, began to run more than it had, not to pass as much, and to shoot more.

By halftime, they had whittled the margin down to 13 points—29-16.

When the second half opened, they completely abandoned the slower type of play they used in the first half. They ran, more like greyhounds than Bears.

They got under for three quick field goals while Kentucky was held to a tip-in by Groza—its first tally achieved that way. And it was 31-21.   They had shaved seven points from that 17-point Kentucky lead.

That was their first threat, and it didn’t last long. Beard, second high scorer with 12, cashed in two free throws, Jones got one the same way, Groza got off a beautiful hook for his 14th point, and Jim Line plunked in two field goals.

It was Kentucky 44, Baylar 28, and 10 minutes of play were left.

Coach Adolph Rupp gave Groza and Jones a rest. With them out, the Bears went wild for the last time. They drew within nine points of the ‘Cats—44-35.

Back in went Groza and Jones.

Groza captured an offensive rebound, flipped it to Joe Holland, in for Cliff Barker, and Holland tallied on a push.

The Wildcats were off again.  Line and Rollins came through quickly with two crips and it was 50-36 in a twinkling.

That was all for the Bears, who like many other teams, thought they could run with the ‘Cats if the slow break failed.

There just isn’t any way, it seems, to beat ’em.

Kentucky Baylor 1948

The Wildcats hit for 29.4 percent of their shots and the Bears for 25.8. U. K. had 78 shots, Baylor 58.

Following Groza in the scoring department were: Beard 12, Wallace Jones and Kenny Rollins 9, Jim Line 7, Cliff Barker 5, and Joe Holland 2.

High scorer for Baylor was Bill Johnson with 10.

Holy Cross stood off a stout last-half rally by Kansas State to defeat the Wildcats, 60-54, in the battle for third place.