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Shockers had minimal success against Louisville in MVC days

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, April 5, 2013, at 1:51 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:02 a.m.

The Missouri Valley had some remarkable programs in the 1960s, but no school was as dominant in the conference as Louisville over its 11-year run.

From 1964 to 1975, the Cardinals won or shared 7 of 11 conference championships. Louisville never finished below fourth place and was a remarkable 121-37 in league games (.766).

In Freedom Hall, Louisville was 127-9 in its Valley years.

WSU reached its first Final Four in 1965, the year Louisville joined the Valley. But that season and the following one were the only years that the Shockers finished ahead of the Cardinals in the standings.

In fact, after an 84-78 Shocker win over Louisville in February 1967, WSU lost 14 straight games to the Cardinals.

One of those losses was in 1973, a 78-75 double-overtime defeat at Levitt Arena. Louisville (10-2) was ranked 20th, but WSU was off to a 3-7 start with a young team under Harry Miller.

WSU trailed 33-16 in the first half yet rallied for an 11-point lead with 1:45 to play. But Louisville’s press wore the Shockers down and forced overtime, then a second OT before scoring the game’s final four points.

It was Louisville’s dominance in the Valley under Denny Crum in the early 1970s that led to the Cardinals bolting the Valley for the Metro Conference, which started up in 1975 as a six-team league with Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Saint Louis and Tulane.

Louisville and WSU still met twice in 1975-76, the Cards’ first year in the Metro Conference. Louisville won 56-52 at Freedom Hall, then came back to the Roundhouse for a final time.

On senior night for Cal Bruton, Robert Gray, Doug Yoder and Jim McCullough, the Shockers beat up No. 20 Louisville 78-74, getting 20 points from Gray and 17 from freshman Cheese Johnson to end the Cardinals’ 14-game streak over WSU.

Louisville’s success was helped by All-American players throughout its Valley tenure.

Wes Unseld (1965-68) was the most notable Cardinal during Louisville’s time in the Valley. He averaged 19.9 points and 19.4 rebounds as a sophomore, 18.7 and 19 as a junior, and 23 points and 18.3 rebounds as a senior.

A 6-foot-7 wide body, Unseld was a three-time All-MVC pick and two-time consensus All-American.

But it seemed as if the Cardinals always had other stars who gave the Shockers and the Valley fits, too.

Guard Butch Beard averaged 19 points and shot just under 50 percent for his career (1966-69), and was a 1969 All-American and two-time All-Valley selection.

Jim Price, a 6-3 guard, averaged 17.1 points from 1969-72 and was a two-time All-Valley pick.

Junior Bridgeman, a 6-5 guard, was a two-time MVC Player of the Year who led Louisville to the 1975 Final Four as a senior. He averaged 15.5 points in his career and shot 52 percent.

Allen Murphy, another 6-5 guard, teamed with Bridgeman. He averaged 16.3 points from 1972-75, shooting 51 percent and was three-time All-Valley.

The Metro eventually merged with the Great Midwest Conference in 1995 to create Conference USA, though Louisville left for the Big East in 2005 and will join the Atlantic Coast Conference this summer.

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