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Throughout the offseason HH will be running past stories about memorable moments in Hilltopper history. The latest installment is the 1966 NCAA Mideast Semifinal round matchup with Big Ten Champion Michigan.

Without a doubt the most infamous game in Hilltopper history, it featured probably the "worst call in the history of basketball," as Topper great Clem Haskins describes it. That call was of course the unbelievably ridiculous and crooked jump ball foul call by official Steve Honzo against Topper Greg Smith. With seconds to go and Western leading 79-78, Smith rebounded a missed free throw by teammate Wayne Chapman and was tied up by Michigan's Cazzie Russell. On the ensuing jump ball Russell stood flat while Smith skied for the tip. Russell thrust his arm into Smith's side while he was in the air and Honzo's whistle blew and a foul was amazingly called on Smith. Russell was awarded two free throws with 11 seconds remaining and hit both shots. A desperation 17-footer by Haskins bounced off the rim and the game was effectively stolen from the Hilltoppers.

The robbery prevented the first ever matchup between Western and uk, a game which the Topper players and fans hungered for. It was also a game in which most observers who witnessed both teams play have little doubt that the Toppers would have been the victors. Former sportswirter Billy Reed who covered the game stated that, "I'll go to my grave believing that that Western team was better than rupp's runts." The Michigan game also helped set the stage for what became one of the pivotal moments in college basketball history, the 1966 NCAA title game featuring Texas Western's all-black starting lineup versus uk's all white roster. The game resulted in a thumping of the wildcats by Don Haskins' Miners. A game made possible because of "The worst call in the history of basketball,".....or the "Most Crooked." Take your pick.

Foul Call Smashes Topper NCAA Hopes
By Bob Adams
BG Daily News


March 13, 1966

RealVideo Clip: View the Jump Ball between Greg Smith & Cazzie Russell - (1.3mb)

Iowa City, IA - Never since basketball began at Western Kentucky in 1914 has a team been dealt such a severe blow as the 1965-66 Hilltoppers suffered here Friday night.

Cazzie Russell et all eliminated the Toppers from the NCAA basketball race in a heartbreaker 80-79, as Michigan's Big Ten champions advanced into the finals of the Mid-East Regional opposite the kentucky wildcats.

Western's hopes of meeting the wildcats went down the drain when Russell, everybody's "player of the year" sank two free throws with 11 seconds to go to erase a 79-78 Western advantage.

The charity tosses came after an infraction whistled by official Steve Honzo which will easily cop honors as "The worst call of the year."

Here's what happened in those hectic final 36 seconds: After Michigan has stalled more than three minutes, Russell slipped and Clem (The Gem) Haskins, grabbed up the loose ball. The Gem drove under the Western bucket and fired a pass to Steve Cunningham who bombed a 15-footer to give the Hilltoppers a 79-78 lead with 24 seconds to go.

With 16 seconds to go Wayne Chapman swiped a Michigan pass, and was walloped two seconds later by a disgusted Wolverine.

But the officials ruled the foul was not intentional and Chapman missed the free chance.

Greg Smith grabbed the rebound and Russell reached around the Hilltopper sophomore to force a jump ball.

On the ensuing jump, official Honzo said Smith was touching the All-American Russell and awarded the Michigan ace a bonus free chance.

In All-America style, Russell responded with the winning points with just 11 seconds on the scoreboard clock.

Haskins fired a 17-footer with 3 seconds to go, but the ball bounced off the rim and that was it.

Quietly answering questions by a host of sportswriters in the sullen corridor leading into the Western dressing room, a dejected John Oldham, the Ohio Valley Conference "Coach of the Year," said simply:

"From where I was sitting, I thought it (Greg Smith's foul) was a very poor call. I think the only people who saw it were from Michigan."

And the sportswriters and broadcasters nodded in agreement.

The Hilltoppers took 83 shots compared with 69 for the Wolves, and hit 35 fielders, four more than Michigan. Western suffered through one of its coldest nights of the year (.422) while Michigan hit .449.

But Western was cold from the foul line, hitting just 9 of 17 while Michigan canned 18 of 22 for the difference.

Russell paced the winners with 24 points including 10 of 12 foul shots.

Oliver Darden and Hohn Clawson tallied 18 apiece and Jim Hyers added 10.

Senior Steve Cunningham posted 24 for the Hilltoppers and Wayne Chapman added 22. Haskins reached twin figures with 15.

Western controlled the boards against the massive wolves 44-43 with Greg Smith leading the way with 13 recoveries. Haskins grabbed 12 missed shots.

Darden and Muers topped Michigan with 12 and 10 boards apiece.

The first half was wild with both teams engineering scoring spurts which kept the 13,000 fans in the Iowa Fieldhouse up and down.

"You know who" hit the first bucket for Michigan and Cunningham came back with an easy basket underneath.

The game was tied for the third time at 8-all and the Toppers led 14-13 with 14:10 left in the half.

But Michigan ran off 12 straight points in the next two and a half minutes to go in front 25-14. Russell was responsible for 8 points in the spurt.

Western didn't crack and came back in the next two minutes to outscore the Wolves 11-2 and cut the gap to 27-25.

Back to back stuffs by Russell and Darden gave Michigan a 37-27 advantage with 7:18 to go.

Again Western fought back. In the remaining minutes of the half, Western turned on the steam to outscore Michigan 20-4 and when the half ended Western went into the dressing room with a 47-41 advantage.

In the first half Western controlled the boards 26-18 and Cunningham and Russell were pacing the scoring with 16 and 15 respectively.

The Hilltoppers moved into their biggest lead of the night 51-43 with about a minute played in the final period.

Again Russell and Co. spurted to outscore the Toppers 12-1 and go into a lead 58-54 with 15:38 showing.

Butch Kaufman replaced Dwight Smith who picked up his fourth personal.

No more than six points ever separated the teams again. But Michigan held the upper hand with two and four-point margins until Haskins meshed a pair of free throws to knot the game at 73-all with 5:28 to go.

But a big three-point play by Myers 21 seconds later put the Wolves on top.

Michigan elected to begin its slowdown with just less than four minutes left and that set the stage for the final heartbreaking minutes.

Clawson was Michigan's sleeper who wrecked Western's chances to advance into the finals. The 6-4 senior turned in a top-notch defensive effort on Dwight Smith in the first half and harrassed Haskins in the second. His 18 points spelled defeat for Western's game plans.

"We would have liked to win." Oldham reflected.

And it will be hard to convince Hilltopper fans that Western was not sacrificed unmercifully to the Wolves.

Previous Game Articles
WKU vs. Loyola (Ill.) (1966 NCAA Tournament)
WKU vs. Georgetown (1982 Wendy's Classic)
WKU vs. UAB (1/25/86 - Mars Bars Game)
WKU vs. Auburn (1985 Wendy's Classic)
WKU vs.Florida St. (1993 NCAA Tournament)
WKU vs. Seton Hall (1993 NCAA Tournament)