KU-WSU ?81 matchup a classic

With all of the media coverage for KU and K-State basketball, it is sometimes easy to forget that there is another Division I basketball school in the state: Wichita State University.

The Wheat Shockers have been playing basketball since 1906 and have a very proud tradition, including an appearance in the NCAA Final Four in 1965. Over the years, WSU has played K-State 31 times with the Cats coming out on top in 20 of those games.

The most important of those contests took place on March 14, 1964, in the Midwest Regional finals played at Wichita. K-State upset the Shockers, 94-86, and with the win, the Cats advanced to the Final Four.

Wichita State has had even less success against KU, winning just two of 14 contests against the Jayhawks. As long as basketball is played on the two campuses, however, one of those wins will live forever in basketball lore in the state.

In 1981, the NCAA thought it wise, profitable or both to force a possible showdown between the two neighbors. Both schools were assigned to the Midwest Regional. The Jayhawks, led by senior point guard and Wichita native Darnell Valentine, defeated Mississippi State and Arizona State to advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals in the New Orleans Superdome.

On the other side of the bracket, Wichita State, who was led by native son Antoine Carr, defeated Southern University and Iowa to join the Hawks, Arizona and LSU in New Orleans.

Up to this point, KU had played Wichita State four times and had never lost to the Shockers. The two had last met in 1955. Now on March 20, 1981, the schools squared off in a game dubbed ?The Battle of New Orleans.?

The contest was tight throughout but with 56 seconds to play, KU held a three-point lead and the ball. All-American Darnell Valentine, who up to this point had played a stellar game, missed the front end of a one-and-one foul shot. WSU reserve Mike Jones responded by netting a long jumper, and now the Shockers were down one.

Valentine then missed a lay-up and with just five seconds remaining in the game. Jones struck again, this time nailing a 25-foot bomb to put WSU up 66-65.

The Jayhawks called time and then designed an out-of-bounds play they hoped would draw a foul on a Shocker defender. The play worked like a charm except for one small detail: No foul was called! KU was unable to get off a shot and Wichita State won, 66-65.

?I think 30,000 people knew it was a foul, except for the three officials who didn?t make the call,? lamented KU Coach Ted Owens after the game. ?I?d like to be kind, but it was obviously a flagrant foul.?

Two days later, the LSU Tigers defeated the Shockers 96-85. LSU would be heading to the Final Four.

History books contain much information about the original ?Battle of New Orleans? and the leadership skills of future president Andrew Jackson. Not many mention the ?Battle of New Orleans? and the timely marksmanship of Wichita State reserve Mike Jones. He and his teammates are another remarkable story from the basketball courts of Kansas Hoopla.

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Ideas, comments and questions: contact smf2guard@yahoo.com. ? 2010 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved.

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