COACH: JOE B. HALL
ALL-AMERICAS: JACK GIVENS (F); RICK ROBEY (F); KYLE MACY (G)
DID YOU KNOW? THE 1977-78 WILDCATS OUTSCORED THEIR OPPONENTS BY 14.3 POINTS A GAME.
IT WAS NEVER EASY for Kentucky. There was never any time to sit and smile. From the very first game this season, the Wildcats were haunted by their tradition, pressured by their opponents and driven mercilessly by their coach. All of the joys of winning had to wait until they had won it all.
That glorious moment came in St. Louis on March 27 in the championship game of the NCAA tournament. There was the marvelous Jack (Goose) Givens, a net around his neck, and there, too, was coach Joe B. Hall, the monkey finally off his back. And in the background a chorus of fans sang the poignant and appropriate lyrics from My Old Kentucky Home. "Weep no more, my lady, weep no more for me."
If there were any Kentucky tears in the Checkerdome, they were tears of relief and joy after the Wildcats defeated gutty Duke 94-88. But once again it had not come easy. Just when victory seemed certain and Hall had taken most of his starters out one by one to allow each his deserved acclaim, the Blue Devils cut a 13-point lead to six with 23 seconds left. Hall had to rush the regulars back into the fray to hold off Duke's last charge. Not until James Lee slammed in the final two points were the Wildcats certain they had triumphed.
But it was Givens who really won the game, scoring 41 points, his career high and just three points shy of the championship game record set by Bill Walton in this arena in 1973. All night long the Goose was cookin', working the baseline, popping from the corners and sneaking into the middle. He swished 'em, he banked 'em, and when it was over, he thanked 'em. "We won it for the people of Kentucky," he said.
Givens has always been the most versatile of Cats. He has the shoulders of a Csonka and the grace of a Nureyev. But he has always been the blandest, too. "We haven't seen the films," he said with a straight face, "so we don't know how well we played."
Everyone else did. Kentucky was Givens, and Givens was great, scoring the last 16 points of the opening half. Inexplicably, the Blue Devils did not come out of their zone defense until it was too late, and Givens just kept pouring in sweet jumpers, along with a selection of tips, layins and free throws. " Jack Givens played the best game I have ever seen anyone play," said Duke's junior captain Jim Spanarkel. "I guess we played him on a night we shouldn't have played him."
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, April 3, 1978