UK versus UofL Sweet Sixteen game: 'You are going to have to put your big boy pants on'

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – It was a crime really. For as storied an in-state rivalry as UK versus UofL is, no one ever wrote a book about the two teams' meetings on the court.

That was the opinion of Ryan Clark and Joe Cox in 2003 when the two were college students attending Western Kentucky University.

On Friday, the pair hope to be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, promoting their new book, "Fightin' Words: Kentucky versus Louisville," when the University of Kentucky Wildcats face off against the University of Louisville Cardinals for the sixth time in NCAA Tournament play.

“We hope to be thousandaires,” joked Clark, who is currently a web editor and instructor at Northern Kentucky University.

The book was released by Sports Publishing March 4. This second tournament match up between the two Kentucky teams in three years was fortuitous for Clark and Cox, and any Bluegrass basketball fan, interested in reading about the rivalry that started back in 1913.

“We predicted the two teams could meet up again in this year’s tournament in the book,” Clark said. “We thought maybe in the Final Four or championship. We didn’t think it would be this soon.”

Clark and Cox’s book particularly focuses on the modern era of NCAA play, from the near missed match-up when both teams were beat in the tournament by John Wooden’s 1975 University of California Los Angles team to actual tournament games beginning with an epic Elite Eight match up in 1983.

“It was a game in Knoxville, the (Mideast) regional finals,” Clark said. “It was the first time they played each other in nearly 40 years. Jim Masters (UK) tied the game on a buzzer beater shot to put the game in overtime.”

That game ended with Louisville going on to a defeat in the Final Four, and igniting a sometimes-bitter rivalry that’s carried on for 31 years as the two teams began scheduling regular meetings on the court each season.

And, of course, UK would have its revenge in 1984, beating UofL in both regular season play and then in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Chapters in Clark and Cox’s book chronicles those match ups.

“If you don’t want to read about the other team’s win, just skip over the chapter,” Clark said.

As it stands, UK holds the crown for the battle between the red and the blue. Out of five NCAA Tournament match-ups so far, UK leads UofL with three wins to two. In the modern era of play, the Wildcats lead 31 wins to the Cardinals’ 15.

The last time the two schools met in the tournament was in 2012, in the Final Four –  a game UK won. The Wildcats went on to win the NCAA Championship.

This year, Louisville is the defending NCAA champion after winning the tournament in 2013.

“It’s going to be an environment where you are going to have to put on your big boy pants,” said Clark of this year’s match up at Lucas Oil Stadium. “There is no way to predict who will win. What surprised me researching the book is the number of upsets. One team always rises up past expectations, or at least plays their best game.”

And though Clark wouldn’t enter the fray of speculation on who would come out on top this time around, he said UofL matches up well against UK on the court, but Kentucky has beaten many prognosticators' predictions for the tournament so far.

“I hope the game lives up to the hype.  For the week before the game, the whole country is focused on Kentucky,” Clark said.

TIMELINE: UK versus UofL tournament play:

Kentucky beats UofL in National Semifinal, 69-61
UK would go on to win the national title. The tournament game had some added sentiment for the Wildcats, as the university faced off against its former coach, Rick Pitino, who now leads the UofL Cardinals.

Kentucky defeated Louisville in regional semifinals, 72-67
UK beat Louisville in both regular season and the tournament. This was the first year UK demanded a regular season scheduled game against the Cards.

Louisville defeated Kentucky in regional final, 80-68
Often referred to as the “Original Dream Game,” at least by Cardinal fans, the game sparked an annual rivalry between the two teams.

Louisville defeated Kentucky in regional semifinal, 76-61
After the defeat, UK refused to schedule a game against them for 29 years.

Kentucky defeated Louisville in the East Regional First Round, 79-68
Kentucky would go on to beat Kansas State in the NCAA Championship game.

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