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Today in Sports History: 3/19 – Texas Western Basketball Wins 1966 NCAA Tournament

Today in sports history (1966), Texas Western Basketball knocked off Kentucky to win the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky came into the game, ranked number one in the country. Texas Western was third.

The significance of this game was that Texas Western was comprised of college basketball’s first all African American starting lineup. Kentucky featured a starting five of all white players. 1966 was a period in United States history of civil rights and activism, so to some, this was just more than a basketball game.

Today in Sports History: Texas Western Beats Kentucky
Credit: Associated Press

Texas Western Wins 1966 NCAA Tournament

The game opened up with Kentucky jumping too early for the opening tip, thus giving possession to Texas Western. Texas Western’s Dave Lattin, at the request of his coach, attempted to dunk as many times as he could to open the game. This resulted in two dunks right off of the rip. This strategy was used for imitation to Kentucky. The Wildcats then went to a 1-3-1 zone in the hopes of stopping the inside scoring for the Miners. They countered this with a three-guard lineup. Midway through the first half, the Miners’ leading scorer Bobby Joe Hill recorded two steals, for two fast-break buckets on back-to-back possessions. Many called this the early turning point of the game. The Miners went into the break with a 34-31 lead.

Kentucky immediately got momentum in the game, cutting the lead to one. The Miners held this lead for the rest of the game. The Miners hit 26-of-27 free throws. The lead eventually grew to nine, as Texas Western started to kill the clock. This included ball handlers dribbling out seconds on seconds, while Kentucky could not get a steal. The Miners rode a strong second half to a 72-65 victory. Believe it or not, Texas Western was the first Texas school to win a National Championship. They were also the only Texas school to win a title until Baylor did so in 2021.

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