Georgia Tech once gave Kentucky a problem

sports@macon.comFebruary 3, 2014 

Georgia Tech and Kentucky haven’t met in basketball since the 2000-01 season when the Yellow Jackets, under first-year head coach Paul Hewitt, edged the Tubby Smith-coached Wildcats 86-84 at the Georgia Dome in the Delta Air Lines Classic.

In fact, since Georgia Tech left the SEC at the end of the 1963-64 season, the teams have played just nine times.

Even though Kentucky has dominated the overall series, winning 56 of 71 meetings, including 28 in a row from 1941 through 1954, there was a time Georgia Tech gave Kentucky all it wanted. Between the 1955 season and Georgia Tech’s departure from the SEC, the “Ramblin’ Wreck” won 9-of-20 meetings. While that is less than a .500 winning percentage, you would be hard pressed to find another team that had that kind of record against Adolph Rupp’s Bluegrass Boys.

The Yellow Jackets success came under the guidance of John “Whack” Hyder, a 1937 Georgia Tech graduate who compiled a 9-16 record against Kentucky during his 22 seasons on The Flats. Hyder, who lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track and field while in college, led Georgia Tech to a sweep of Kentucky during the 1954-55 season.

Possibly the biggest win of his career came that season, when Georgia Tech defeated Kentucky 59-58 in Lexington to snap the Wildcats’ 129-game home winning streak that dated back to the 1942-43 season, when they were beaten 43-40 at home by Ohio State. It was reported that Kentucky fans were in tears following the setback.

Georgia Tech, which had lost to Sewanee in its previous game before playing Kentucky, saw its five starters go the distance in the win. That quintet included Bobby Kimmel, Joe Helms, Dick Lenholt, Bill Cohen and Leonard Cohen. Helms led Georgia Tech in scoring in the win with 23 points, while Kimmel had 28.

Georgia Tech proved the win in Lexington was no fluke, as the Yellow Jackets beat the Wildcats two weeks later in Atlanta, 65-59.

The Yellow Jackets also swept Kentucky in 1960 on the way to their first trip to the NCAA tournament, winning 63-54 in Lexington and 65-44 in Atlanta. All-American Roger Kaiser was Georgia Tech’s leading scorer in both games, hitting for 18 points in the first outing and 24 in the second. Georgia Tech’s trip to the NCAA tournament ended when the Yellow Jackets lost to eventual national champion Ohio State 80-69.

When comparing Georgia Tech and Kentucky in basketball, there really is no comparison. In total wins in program history, Kentucky has 2,126 while Georgia Tech stands at 1,181. The Wildcats have made 52 NCAA tournament appearances, while Georgia Tech stands at 20. Kentucky has eight NCAA championships and two NIT crowns, while Georgia Tech has neither. Kentucky has 57 20-win seasons and 13 30-win campaigns, while Georgia Tech has 13 with 20 wins or more and none at the 30 mark.

If you are keeping count on All-Americans, Kentucky has 53 to its credit, while Georgia Tech is at 20.

If you compare the schools in football, Georgia Tech would hold a sizeable advantage with 700 wins to 581, 41 bowl appearances to 14 and 21 consensus All-Americans to 10. Kentucky is a basketball school. while Georgia Tech would fall more in the football school category.

Kentucky has had five different basketball head coaches to win national titles. The “Baron of the Bluegrass,” Adolph Rupp, won four, while Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari have one each. Calipari’s Kentucky team is 16-5 overall and 6-2 in SEC play this season, while Georgia Tech is 12-10 overall and 3-6 in conference play.

The Wildcats will be dancing in March. Georgia Tech will not.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Email him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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