UK Men's Basketball

Mark Story: The 10 greatest 'Big Blue beatdowns' in Kentucky basketball history

Rex Chapman shot for the basket in the UK-U of L game on Dec. 27, 1986, in Louisville.
Rex Chapman shot for the basket in the UK-U of L game on Dec. 27, 1986, in Louisville. Herald-Leader

After watching his No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks be pulverized 72-40 by No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday night, Kansas Coach Bill Self entered his postgame news conference and took a swig out of a bottle of water.

"I was hoping that was vodka," Self said.

Across the generations, many an opposing basketball coach has watched his team absorb a beating from Kentucky of such severity that mood-altering substances seemed the appropriate coping mechanism.

Below is my list of the top 10 all-time Big Blue beatdowns (Writer's note: We're evaluating emphatic Kentucky victories in games of significance or over teams that matter. You will not find fifty-point wins over Marist listed):

10.) No. 2 Kentucky 81, Indiana 40

The setting: Dec. 20, 2003, in RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

The backdrop: The season before, IU Coach Mike Davis melted down at the end of a tense game with UK and charged onto the court to berate officials, costing his team a chance to win.

The beatdown: Tubby Smith's Cats applied a different type of torment to Davis. UK got double-doubles from Chuck Hayes (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Erik Daniels (19 points, 10 rebounds) and held IU to 14 second-half points.

9.) No. 4 Kentucky 101, Tennessee 40

The setting: March 12, 1993, SEC Tournament quarterfinals in Rupp Arena.

The backdrop: Some two weeks earlier, UT cost the Cats a share of the SEC regular-season title with a 78-77 win in Knoxville.

The beatdown: Kentucky roared to a 41-17 halftime lead. For the game, UK held UT senior star Allan Houston to 1-for-15 field-goal shooting and three points. Tony Delk's 15 points led seven Cats in double figures.

Postscript: In Tennessee, they still refer to this 61-point drubbing as "the Roger Maris game."

8.) No. 5 Kentucky 94, No. 19 UCLA 6 8

The setting: March 20, 1998, NCAA Tournament round of 16 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The backdrop: The first NCAA tourney meeting between the basketball blue bloods since the 1975 NCAA finals.

The beatdown: Kentucky blocked a whopping 14 UCLA shots, six each by big men Nazr Mohammed and Jamaal Magloire. Steve Lavin's Bruins made only 23 of 79 shots.

7.) No. 2 Kentucky 103, No. 16 Wake Forest 69

The setting: March 23, 1993, NCAA Tournament round of 16 at Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, N.C.

The backdrop: The Cats were seeking their first Final Four berth since 1984.

The beatdown: Kentucky opened the game on a withering 34-8 run. At halftime, UK led 60-26. For the game, Travis Ford hit five of six three pointers and scored 26 points. Jamal Mashburn hit five of five treys and had 23 points — all in the first half.

Postscript: UK waxed No. 11 Florida State 106-81 in the Southeast Region finals, but lost to Michigan's Fab Five 81-78 in overtime in the Final Four.

6.) No. 1 Kentucky 72, No. 5 Kansas 40

The setting: Nov. 18, 2014, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The backdrop: Rematch of 2012 NCAA title game in which UK beat KU 67-59.

The beatdown: Kentucky blocked 11 Kansas shots. The Jayhawks made 11 field goals (11 of 56). KU scored 12 points in the second half.

Postscript: To be determined. This could move up the "beatdown" list if Kansas actually turns out to be a top-five team.

5.) No. 6 Kentucky 99, No. 8 Indiana 65

The setting: Dec. 7, 1996, in Freedom Hall.

The backdrop: Rick Pitino was replacing three starters off the 1996 NCAA champs.

The beatdown: Derek Anderson had 30 points and "posterized" IU's Andrae Patterson with a ferocious dunk. Ron Mercer added 26 points. UK led Bob Knight's Hoosiers 55-31 at halftime.

Postscript: Had Anderson not torn an ACL in January 1997, the banner in Rupp Arena from that season would almost surely be for an NCAA title, not a runner-up finish.

4.) No. 18 Kentucky 85, Louisville 51

The setting: Dec. 27, 1986, in Freedom Hall.

The backdrop: In the run-up to the game, UK Coach Eddie Sutton stoked the UK-U of L rivalry to a roaring fire. Said Sutton: "Kentucky is a bigger program than Louisville. ... Louisville is like the little brother fighting for recognition from the big brother."

The beatdown: UK freshman Rex Chapman walked Sutton's talk. He made five of eight three-pointers. He hit a fall-down jumper ahead of the halftime buzzer to put UK up 38-28. Chapman finished a dazzling performance with 26 points.

Postscript: Seven games later, LSU put a 76-41 beatdown on UK in Rupp Arena.

3.) No. 2 Kentucky 129, LSU 97

The setting: Jan. 16, 1996, at Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

The backdrop: In UK's prior visit to LSU, the Cats rallied from 31 points down in the second half to beat LSU 99-95.

The beatdown: UK made 16 steals in the first half. Kentucky forward Antoine Walker had 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists at halftime. UK led at the intermission 86-42. Said UK Coach Rick Pitino: "That was a half of a lifetime."

2.) No. 1 Kentucky 81, No. 2 St. John's 40

The setting: Dec. 17, 1951, in Memorial Coliseum.

The backdrop: Early-season meeting of 1952 NCAA championship favorites.

The beatdown: Owensboro products Bobby Watson and Cliff Hagan each scored 25 points for UK and Adolph Rupp's Cats held St. John's without a double-figure scorer.

Postscript: On March 22, 1952, the same two teams met in the NCAA Tournament. In one of the more stunning reversals in UK hoops history, St. John's ended No. 1 Kentucky's season 64-57.

1.) No. 2 Kentucky 65, No. 6 Louisville 44

The setting: Nov. 26, 1983, in Rupp Arena.

The backdrop: In the prior season, Kentucky and Louisville had met in the NCAA Tournament round of eight, the first meeting between the schools since 1959. U of L ended UK's season 80-68 in overtime.

The beatdown: For UK, revenge was sweet. Sam Bowie, back playing after missing two full years with leg injuries, had seven points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Kentucky led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Postscript: The same two teams met again in Rupp Arena in the 1984 NCAA tourney. U of L gave a much better account of itself, but Kentucky won 72-67.

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