Hilltopper Haven

This latest entry in the "Hilltopper Flashbacks" series is a recap of the February 16, 1993 contest between WKU and her ancient rival Louisville. Western, which owns a 38-33 all-time series lead, had last defeated the Cardinals 96-80 in 1961. The two teams didn't face one another from 1963-1975 and even though the period of 1975-1993 saw many exciting matchups between the two schools, UL had managed to come out on top in each contest during that span.

That streak would finally come to an end on a Tuesday night in Freedom Hall when Ralph Willard's team served notice to the state that the Hilltoppers were once again a force to be reckoned with. The game also served as a springboard for the Toppers and helped propel them into the NCAA Tournament where they would eventually fall in overtime to Florida State in the Sweet 16.

Horn Hits 3-Pointer At 0:08, Saves Win

By Joe Medley
The Daily News
February 17, 1993

(Louisville Sports highlights of the game)

Louisville, Ky. - Not many would have pegged Darrin Horn the likely man to end a nearly 32-93ulyear hunger for Western Kentucky University basketball fans, but he never doubted himself when he got the chance.

"I've always considered myself a big-play player," the sophomore guard from Lexington said.

Horn swished a baseline 3-pointer with eight seconds left, and unranked Western beat No. 22 Louisville
78-77 Tuesday night before 19,368 in Freedom Hall. It was Western' first win over Louisville since March 1, 1961.

The same Hilltopper who beat New Orleans and Central Florida with last-second foul shots as a freshman, Horn claimed but one thought when sophomore forward Darius Hall spotted tim wide-open on the left side and delivered the game-winning pass.

"Shoot," Horn said. He did it without hesitation.

"The shot felt good when it left my hand," said Horn, who scored nine points. "I had a feeling it was in. I've been in these situations before in high school, so I felt comfortable."

Ironically, the game-winning play was Plan B for Western (17-4). Down 77-75, the Hilltoppers called timeout with 30 seconds left, and Coach Ralph Willard set up a 3-point shot for senior Darnell Mee.

"You want your senior to take that shot," Willard said.

Willard called the play based on Louisville sticking with a man-to-man defense, but left a contingency for the zone.

"We set up a play we call 'High five backscreen' where there are two opportunities for a 3," Willard said. "We had said if they're in a zone, we'll go 'Gap Power,' "

Louisville coach Denny Crum went zone.

"Up until that point they had been driving on us all night," Crum said. "I called the zone to keep them from driving the middle."

Mee passed to senior guard Mark Bell on the right side, and Bell found Hall open near the foul line.

Darius was in the wrong place, and Bell found Hall open near the foul line.

"Darius was in the wrong place," Willard said. "He was supposed to set a screen at the top of the key."

Hall took the pass and turned toward the basket.

"I was going to take it in and try to score," Hall said. "But there was Darrin wide open, and I kicked it out."

(Darrin Horn's game-winning shot)

Bell, who led all scorers with 24 points despite a charley horse in his lef calf, said he expected Hall to shoot.

"I've been telling him not to pass it when he gets the ball inside," Bell said. Then Bell turned to Hall as Hall passed by in the locker room. "I guess you were right this time."

Willard said he never considered going for a tie. "With the fact that we were on the road, we were in foul trouble and the shape Mark was in, I figured we had to win the basketball game," Willard said. "I didn't think we could win it in overtime."

Western nearly lost in regulation. After a Louisville timeout with seven seconds left, junior Dwayne Morton took the inbounds pass and went the distance, driving past Mee to the baseline. Morton missed a two-handed dunk

Louisville guard Greg Minor rebounded on the left side, but Hall blocked Minor's 10-foot shot as time ran out.

"We wanted Dwayne to have the ball because he's our best offensive player in the full-court situation,"
Crum said.

Morton, who led Louisville (14-7) with 19 points, paused when asked about the final play, then expressed no regrets about trying to dunk instead of kissing a layup off the glass.

"If I had it to do all over again, I'd do it the same," he said. "It just didn't go in."

A furious ending characterized the game.

"It was a game of runs," Willard said. "We were fortunate enough to make one at the end of the game."

Western outscored Louisville 19-3 to start the game and 7-0 to open the second half, giving the Hilltoppers a 52-38 lead.

Louisville ripped off a 20-0 surge to erase that lead midway through the second half. The tun also saw Hall pick up his fourth foul, and Western's Bryan Brown fouled out.

"We were feeling pretty good about it then,"
Morton said. "Everyone was pumped, the crowd was into it, and we thought we had it."

Louisville led by as many as eight points in the second half, including a 73-65 edge on Troy Smith's jumper at 3:07.

Mee, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, snapped a personal drought with a 3-pointer at the top of the key to cut the lead to 73-68 at 2:52 and spark Western's final rally.

"I wasn't thinking about shooting a 3,"
he said. "But I looked and saw no one was going to pick me up."

Morton's missed dunk was one of two down the stretch. Derwin Webb missed the other.

Willard reiterated his his week-long message that beating Louisville is not as important as beating Sun Belt Conference foes Arkansas State (on Saturday) and No. 21 New Orleans (on Monday).

But Tuesday's win did send a message.

"I've been trying to tell people in this state that we've got a pretty good basketball team,"
he said. "I've listened to everybody tell me, 'Yeah, BUT you're Western Kentucky.' Maybe they'll stop saying that now."

Appropriately, Horn wanted the final word. He said, "We did it by the grace of God."