By LARRY VAUGHT
One of the most dramatic NCAA Tournament wins Kentucky has had came in 1978 when the Cats beat Michigan State 52-49 in the Mideast Region final to advance to the Final Four. That game sometimes gets overlooked but coach Joe Hall’s team needed a daring adjustment by coach Leonard Hamilton right before the start of the second half that led to the win.
Kyle Macy, a transfer from Purdue playing in his first NCAA Tournament, had 18 points and played all 40 minutes without making a turnover against Michigan State’s 2-3 zone defense. The Spartans had a known star in Greg Kelser (19 points, 13 rebounds) and a rising star in Earven “Magic” Johnson (6 points, 6 turnovers, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals).
“We had Jack (Givens) guarding Magic and Jack was doing a great job because Magic really couldn’t shoot back then but we were having trouble scoring,” Macy said.
Kentucky, a high scoring team that season, trailed 27-22 at halftime. The Cats were going through second half warmups when Hamilton and Hall called Macy and Rick Robey over.
“It was kind of like in sandlot ball where you put chalk in your hands and just draw a play up on the court to run,” Macy said. “Coach Hamilton told coach Hall to run a play where we would reverse the ball, Rick would come up and set a pick and I would drive off the pick.
“If they came up to me, I would hit Jack. They didn’t want to give Jack open jumpers, so they stayed with him. I had open shots or they would foul me, so it worked out. I made some free throws down the stretch.”
Macy had nine points in the final 6 minutes, 16 seconds and was 7-for-7 at the foul line in that stretch. He was 10-for-11 from the foul line in the game.
Of course, two games later Givens had 41 points in the national title game win over Duke to show why Michigan State didn’t want to give him open shots, but Hamilton’s adjustment enabled Macy to get free enough to propel the Cats to a win and a national title.