Date story was published: DATE: December 17, 1983
They were cute, the Cowboys of Wyoming, cuter than Cabbage Patch Dolls but not quite as tall.
With his big men cut down to human-being size by an assortment of injuries, Wyoming Coach Jim Brandenburg brought his muscular munchkins to Rupp Arena last night, and predictably his pint-size Pokes came out on the short end of the score.
It was a large Mutt and Jeff cartoon come to life, for those of you old enough to remember comedy's original odd couple, a mismatch of midget versus monster. With no one in the starting lineup over 6-foot-6, these Cowboys brandished three-shooters instead of the customary six.
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And while Wyoming has undoubtedly flown over the Rockies, the Cowboys have rarely shot over them.
Stopping Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin and Kenny Walker was just too tall an order for these lovable Lilliputians from Laramie.
And when Brandenburg's two tallest and talented starters, Jamal Hosey and Tony Martin, fouled out midway in the second half, the party was over, as Don Meredith, an ex-Cowboy, himself, is too fond of noting.
If Hollywood ever decides to film "Under The Rainbow II," they could use some footage from last night's game, but that's not to say that the Pokes didn't ride tall in the saddle at times.
The Cats, nursing a modest 10-point lead at intermission, often seemed mesmerized by the deliberate Wyoming offense, and a defense that dared the outside shot.
The margin remained respectable much of the second half, and when Tony Brown buried a baseline jumper with 10:49 left, the Cowboys had pulled to within 41-29.
But with Wyoming's only high-risers on the bench, UK's skyline turned on like Times Square on New Year's Eve, outscoring Wyoming 7-0 over the next 1:49 to take a more imposing 48-29 advantage with only nine minutes, mercifully, to go.
For all purposes, The Shootout At The KO Corral was over. Wyoming had stayed as long (no pun intended) as it could with the Twin Towers. From there, the Wildcats went on to an uncontested victory, although they were outrebounded by the Pokes.
There was another statistic that arrested Brandenburg's attention after the game, and you'll see that the word "arrested" is used advisedly.
Wyoming lost three of its starters to fouls as the three officials -- William Frazier, Sonny Holmes and Don Rutledge -- called virtually twice as many fouls on the visitors (27-14). The Cats, who had only six more field goals than the Cowboys, made good on 20 of 32 from the free-throw line, while Wyoming settled for six of nine.
"Out west, we thought the James brothers were dead and buried, but they resurfaced here tonight," commented Brandenburg. "I'm not saying that officiating beat us, but it did make a difference in the margin. It wasn't even close. We didn't get a call all night. They could play with us, but we couldn't play with them."
Brandenburg's remarks evoked some sympathy along press row. The final foul against Martin, a levitating leaper, appeared to be a clean block on Turpin, but again, only the score, not the outcome, was affected by last night's officiating.
Wyoming came to Lexington as a decided underdog, but the Cowboys were determined to dictate the terms of their own demise.
"We thought we came in here with a good defensive game plan," said Brandenburg, "one that would bother Kentucky. When you're the underdog, at least you can decide who will beat you, and from where. We wanted to jam the inside, and play soft on the outside. How the hell else are you going to beat them?"
The plan worked, partially. Kentucky's starting guards, Jim Master and Roger Hardin, combined for two points. But the big guys scored big points -- all but 13 of UK's total of 66.
"Turpin and Bowie both have pro bodies, and Walker's pretty close," noted Brandenburg. "I thought we played well enough defensively to stay in the game, but we didn't get enough offensive execution. We just didn't have offensive smarts."
The Wyoming coach went on to praise UK's defense ("they do a good job of cutting off the passing lanes") before he was asked if Kentucky has pulled any surprises.
"Surprises?" he repeated.
"The Russians had the atom bomb secrets just a few years after we had them, so I sure as hell know what Kentucky is doing in basketball."
While the coach talked, his players walked, back to the hotel without being interviewed.
"They probably took their showers as they fouled out," noted one sage.
It's too bad, because the Pokes had nothing to be ashamed of last night. They got mauled by a taller, more talented Kentucky team. They bought it at Boot Hill, but at least they died with their sneakers on.