Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
The men’s basketball program at the University of Kentucky is heralded by many, if not most, as the nation’s most successful.
Since fielding competition in 1903, it has recorded the most all-time wins (2,090), the highest all-time winning percentage (2,090 wins and 649 losses for .763), the most appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament (52) and the most NCAA tournament victories (111).
Only UCLA has won more NCAA championships than Kentucky. In 2012, Coach John Calipari led the Wildcats to their eighth tournament title. UCLA has won 11, 10 under former Terre Haute resident and Indiana State coach John Wooden.
Along the way, the athletic administration at UK has made some strategic scheduling decisions. For instance, the Wildcats no longer play Rose-Hulman.
The budding rivalry ended in 1917 when Kentucky got revenge for one of the worst defeats in its history.
On Feb. 10, 1910, the Engineers, then known as Rose Polytechnic Institute, whipped the visitors from the Blue Grass State, referred to as the State University of Kentucky, 52 to 11.
Ralph H. White, sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune, covered the game. This is his account:
“Furnishing as pitiful an opposition as would be expected from the weakest high school quintet, Kentucky was buried under an avalanche of goals by Rose Poly Thursday night at the Knights of Columbus Hall (at the northwest corner of Ninth and Ohio streets). The final count was 52 to 11.
“Kentucky never had a look in. Indeed, the foe was so far outclassed that the men of Rose became careless and the contest, if such it could be called, was at times devoid of all interest.
“Poly was also over-confident and played far below standard. Had the Engineers played the game they are capable of, their score would have easily been 75. At that, Hezlip ‘Heze’ Clark’s athletes were pursued by tough luck. Time and again the ball would roll around the rim only to fall to one side.
“[William] Webster, hero of the memorable triumph over Wabash, started the slaughter right off the bat. In less than a minute, the powerful captain had cast the first field goal. Then [Arthur] Rohm, the Rockville phenom, landed a beautiful marker on a long throw.
“Rohm, incidentally, was one of the shining lights. His parents and sister were on the sidelines and urged on by their presence, the ‘midget’ performed with all his skill.
“For once there was no real star, every member of the team working together in a pleasing manner. After the first few minutes, however, when the battle became a rout, the Engineers eased up and did not hit their highest speed.
“The visitors were plainly out of condition and long before the final whistle were ‘gone.’ Previous to the getaway, Captain [Wayne] Plummer of the ‘Thoroughbreds’ requested Clark to ‘shorten the half’ but Heze refused.
“‘When I took my crippled football team up to the hills of Kentucky last fall and asked for shorter halves than 35 minutes, I was refused,” the Rose Poly coach said. ‘Your heavy team battered my boys fairly to pieces and we had to stand it. Now you fellows must stand the gaff of two 20-minute halves.’”
In the curtain raiser, the First Baptist Church defeated Company B of the Indiana National Guard, 27 to 13.
The Lexington Leader also covered the game and complimented the winners:
“TERRE HAUTE, IND., Feb. 11 – Rose Poly’s spectacular teamwork proved a puzzle to the Kentucky basketball team and the Engineers won by the score of 52 to 11.
“Rose started the game with a rush and scored eight points before the Colonels had a look-in and they seemed dazed by the fast work of the locals.
“Captain Plummer of the Kentucky team put up a splendid defensive game, while [Derrill] Hart at center outjumped (Clyde) Hoffner of Rose.
“Webster and Rohm played sensational games for the Engineers but the real feature was the teamwork of Rose Poly.”
Rose used six players and all scored. Webster led the Engineers with 14 points. Rohm and Frank Wente each had 12. Hoffner added 10 while George Standau and Chesleigh “Dolly” Gray had one basket apiece. All but Rohm eventually earned engineering degrees.
Hart and Polk Threlkeld led Kentucky in scoring with four points each. Plummer added three free throws.
Kentucky finished the season with a 4-8 record, defeating Tennessee, 20 to 5, but losing to Cincinnati, 47 to 17, and DePauw, 28 to 16, at Greencastle. After more than a century, the loss to Rose still is the fifth worst defeat in Kentucky’s storied basketball history.
Rose finished the season with a 7-6 record with victories over Indiana University, Michigan State and Indiana State, among others. Purdue, Notre Dame, Wabash and Earlham inflicted losses.
Kentucky secured a measure of revenge on Jan. 30, 1917, defeating the Engineers at Buell Amory Gymnasium in Lexington, 33 to 12. Boone Simpson led the winners with 10 points. Owen Floyd, one of only two Rose-Hulman athletes to play in the National Football League, and James Orr each had four points for the Engineers.