One of Kentucky’s historic basketball rivalries will not return in 2024-25

Fast-break points from the D. Wayne Lukas appreciation society:

21. Eastern Kentucky vs. Morehead State. The two ancient rivals have not played in men’s basketball since March 5, 2021, when MSU beat EKU 67-64 in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament. Subsequently, EKU left the OVC to join the ASUN for the 2021-22 school year.

20. A.W. Hamilton. After Morehead State named Jonathan Mattox this spring to replace Preston Spradlin as the Eagles coach, Hamilton, the EKU head man, says he called the new MSU coach to propose relaunching the Colonels-Eagles rivalry.

19. “Good for our state.” A resumption of EKU-MSU “would be good for our players, good for our fans and, I think, it would be good for basketball fans in our state,” Hamilton says.

18. Don’t agree on the series record. As befits a passionate college rivalry, EKU and MSU disagree on the all-time men’s basketball series record between the schools. Eastern says it leads its series with Morehead 112-84. MSU says EKU’s lead is 110-87.

Former Morehead State star Johni Broome, center, scored 17 points to lead the Eagles to a 67-64 win over Eastern Kentucky in the semifinals of the 2021 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Evansville, Ind. With EKU leaving the OVC to join the ASUN Conference in 2021-22, the two ancient rivals have not played since. Morehead State athletics director Kelly Wells said last week the Eagles and Colonels will not renew their men’s hoops rivalry in 2024-25, either.

17. Rivaly will not return in 2024-25. Morehead State athletics director Kelly Wells said Thursday that MSU will not play EKU in the coming season. “Our schedule right now, with return games, we don’t have any space for that,” Wells said of playing Eastern.

16. A rivalry renaissance in 2025-26? As to whether Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky could resume playing in the 2025-26 school year, Wells said, “I’d say possible is a great word for that. We’ll see.” The MSU AD says he gives his school’s head coaches great leeway in determining how and who they want to schedule.

15. The view from Mattox. Morehead State’s new coach was non-committal Friday on the idea of bringing EKU back onto the MSU men’s hoops slate. “We will see,” Mattox said. “To be determined.”

14. Guy Strong. One of the iconic basketball figures in Kentucky history, Strong died Saturday night at age 93. In a career of remarkable length and depth, Strong had an impact on hoops in the commonwealth for over six decades across multiple levels.

13. Sweet 16. As a player, Strong led Irvine High School to the 1948 boys state tournament. Playing at the Armory in Louisville, Strong and the Golden Eagles lost a one-point heartbreaker, 36-35, to Male. Irvine finished its season at 29-3. A team from Estill County would not return to the boys Sweet 16 until 2018.

12. An NCAA champion. From 1949 through 1951, Strong played college hoops for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky. In 27 games as a Wildcat, Strong scored 64 total points. He was a member of UK’s 1951 NCAA title team.

Kentucky’s 1950-51 NCAA championship team: From left to right, top row: Frank Ramsey, Shelby Linville, Bill Spivey, Roger Layne, Lou Tsioropoulos, Read Morgan. Middle row: Head coach Adolph Rupp, Cliff Hagan, C.M. Newton, Walt Hirsch, Paul Lansaw, Dwight Price, assistant coach Harry Lancaster. Bottom row: Lindle Castle, Lucian Whitaker, Bobby Watson, Guy Strong, Ches Riddle.

11. An OVC Tournament champion. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Strong finished out his college hoops career playing for Paul McBrayer at Eastern Kentucky. Strong helped the Colonels win the 1955 OVC tourney championship.

10. Greater impact as a coach. Once his playing days ended, Strong’s influence on basketball in Kentucky grew.

9. Another NCAA championship. Strong coached Kentucky Wesleyan for four seasons, going 73-30 from 1963-1967. In 1966, Strong directed the Panthers to the NCAA Division II national title. It was the first of what is now eight NCAA championships won by Wesleyan men’s hoops.

8. Another OVC championship. Strong coached Eastern Kentucky for six seasons, going 78-65. In 1971-72, Strong led the Colonels to the Ohio Valley Conference title. In the 1972 NCAA Tournament first round, EKU fell to Florida State 83-81. The Seminoles went on to advance to the NCAA championship game, where they lost to UCLA 81-76.

7. A return to high school hoops. Strong had a rough go (39-66) from 1973-77 while coaching Oklahoma State, but that merely set him up for an eventual return to Kentucky basketball. In two separate stints (1983-90 and 1995-2001), Strong coached Clark County High School to a 254-118 record that included three 10th Region crowns.

6. “A great life.” In a 2019 interview with former Herald-Leader sports reporter Mike Fields, Strong said, “When I go, I want you all to be happy because I’ve had a great life. I don’t want anybody to be sad because I’ve seen it all and done it all.”

Guy Strong stepped down as Clark County boys’ basketball coach at age 70 in 2001. He went 254-118 as Clark County head man (1983-1990, 1995-2001) and led the Cardinals to three 10th Region crowns.
Guy Strong stepped down as Clark County boys’ basketball coach at age 70 in 2001. He went 254-118 as Clark County head man (1983-1990, 1995-2001) and led the Cardinals to three 10th Region crowns.

5. Walker Buehler. The former Henry Clay High School baseball star reached a milestone Saturday in his return to the Los Angeles Dodgers after rehabbing from his second “Tommy John” surgery.

4. First win since 2022. Buehler was the winning pitcher in L.A.’s 4-0 win over Cincinnati, working six innings and allowing only three hits while striking out seven. It was Buehler’s first win in the major leagues since May 24, 2022.

3. Kentucky Wildcats baseball. At 39-12, 22-8 in the SEC and ranked No. 2 in the country in the poll, Nick Mingione’s Cats have produced a remarkable season.

2. “Settled” for SEC co-championship. Had Kentucky beaten Vanderbilt in Saturday’s regular-season finale, the Wildcats would have been the outright SEC regular season champ for the first time in history. Instead, UK lost 12-4 to Vanderbilt and had to share the SEC crown with Tennessee (46-10, 22-8 SEC).

1. Illogical disappointment. Given how stellar the UK season has been, it’s not rational to feel this way but was anyone else a little disappointed that Kentucky, by losing Saturday, allowed the dastardly Rocky Toppers to have a share of the SEC championship?

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