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All of the roles you have ever seen Sidney Poitier play on the screen, the Guess Who's Coming ones, are filled by Charles Scott on a basketball court. Outside, weaving through the lanes, he is smooth and silken—Guess Who's Coming to the Convent, sisters. In tight, high on the boards, muscling, he is strength and power—Guess Who's Busting out of Prison, warden. In an era of wholesale transition and against a backdrop of an otherwise all-white atmosphere, young Charles has taken Southern basketball as old Sidney took the movies, quietly at first, delicately, and now by storm.
Last year he bided his time with uneven play at North Carolina while a teammate, Larry Miller, closed out his own fine career as the Tar Heels' bellwether; this season it is a different game. Scott is newly married, bejeweled with Olympic gold and a national sports hero of some magnitude. He is the first black man to play varsity basketball for his school and, black or white, most likely the best, too. Now, in the heat of any game night, he has become, as Poitier in another medium before him, the mainstay, the catalyst of the performance, the man. Scott carries the Tar Heels as surely as any player before him, and last Saturday night in Lexington he carried them right past Kentucky and onward to a level of play that, surprisingly, seems already above that of the North Carolina NCAA second-place team of last season.
Against Kentucky Scott was a darting, drifting patch of blue, Carolina blue, in every aspect of the game as his team ran away from the Wildcats 87-77 in a matchup that, after the first five minutes of the second half, was nowhere near that close. Only through the opening 10 minutes did Kentucky seem equal to the task, and even then the visitors' big men—Rusty Clark, Bill Bunting and a sparkling rookie, 6'10" Lee Dedmon—were asserting superiority off the boards while Scott led the defense and fed the fast break. By the end of the night men from the Blue Grass were happy that the Cats "got the score down to respectability."
Like horses and bourbon, basketball cannot be overexposed in Kentucky. One local TV station delayed its tape of the game, then showed it right after the live broadcast of the UCLA-Notre Dame contest as part of a video "Poll Bowl" doubleheader featuring the first and fourth ranked teams, according to the wire services, and the second and third.
The high ranking of both Southern teams added luster to a series that in recent years has come to be somewhat of a grudge pairing. Of the four major schools that have a winning edge against Kentucky, North Carolina, 7-4 going into Saturday's game, was the most impressive. The second-ranked Tar Heels, in fact, had won the last three games, and Dean Smith, the bright young Carolina coach, was personally 4-1 against Adolph Rupp. Interestingly enough, both men played at the knees of Phog Allen of Kansas, Rupp in 1923, Smith in 1953; the disparity in the results seemed to indicate that, in 30 years, old Phog may have taught some new tricks.
North Carolina's victory in Lexington two years ago, achieved by the sophomores who are now such highly rated seniors, was the landmark from which the Tar Heels went on to later successes in conference competition and the NCAA playoffs. They did not seem intimidated by Kentucky's home grounds. "This is bigger than being second in the polls," said Clark upon arriving in Lexington. "This is between two sections—which one plays better basketball. We could come in here down and out and still fight like hell to beat Kentucky."
For their part, the No. 3 Wildcats were aching to get at North Carolina. Stung by newspaper reports that exaggerated their weaknesses, they remembered last year when they lost at Greensboro in a game they thought they gave away through immaturity and mistakes. "They've beaten us close the last two years," said Phil Argento, Kentucky's only senior. "We think we should have won both, and we've been waiting. I thought we'd get Carolina in the NCAA last March, but it didn't work out. Well, here they are, and we're ready."
Old Master Rupp was outwardly unmoved by the talk of retaliation. It was obvious that his unquenchable ego had been burned by North Carolina.
"Adolph's really worried about this one," went the word around town. "Scared, he's scared." For three days prior to the game Rupp praised the opponent, giving himself only ghost chances to win and, as is his wont, erecting a pedestal for the enemy off the court before burning him on it. "People are going to see a much weaker Kentucky team than they thought they'd see," he would say, swaying his magnificent scowl from side to side. "We're outsized at every position, we're immature and we can't handle the press. Our boys panicked at Miami of Ohio and North Carolina saw that."
Rupp moans a lot—the better to sneak up on you and win nearly 800 games—but his problems were not entirely illusory. Mike Pratt, a 6'4" bear up front who may be Kentucky's best all-round player, shattered the ring finger of his left (nonshooting) hand 12 days before the season opened and had not even dressed for Kentucky's first two games.