February 8, 1964 is when it happened.
The crowd was jammed into Memorial Coliseum. When the number was totaled up it would be 12,600 people waiting to watch the Mississippi Rebels face Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats. Rupp had just won his 700th career victory earlier on the week against Georgia on the road in Athens. Now the Cats were back home and Rupp was aiming for number 701.
The game had some extra hype because it featured the two best scorers in the SEC going head to head. UK’s Cotton Nash (26.9 ppg) and Mississippi’s Don Kessinger (25.3 ppg). But the Coliseum crowd would not remember the game as a battle between the best scorers in the conference, instead it would be remembered for another stunning reason. In the 102-59 victory over Ole Miss, the Wildcats pulled down 108 rebounds.
You can read that line again and then slow down at the end of the sentence, yes … you read it correctly - 108 rebounds.
Yep, it’s a record. It is understandably the all-time UK record and the NCAA Division I mark for team rebounds in a single game.
Doing a deeper dive you discover that all five Kentucky starters had double-digit rebounds. Nash had 15 boards — in the first half. He then added 15 more rebounds in the second half for a total of 30. Kentucky’s forwards Ted Deeken and Larry Conley, had 17 and 12 rebounds, respectively. The Wildcats’ starting guards, Terry Mobley and Tommy Kron had 12 and 11 rebounds.
During the 1963-64 season, blistering basketball was Rupp’s running full throttle style. But you are already thinking what becomes painfully obvious. In order to get 108 rebounds you have to be playing at a breakneck pace and have a horrifying shooting night.
Larry Conley described it accurately, “The first thing you need for a rebounding record,” he summarized, “is a whole lot of missed shots.”
Kentucky fired an amazing 125 shots making only 47 (37.6 percent). In contrast, Ole Miss took 84 field goal attempts and hit 24 (that is a sad 28.6 percent). Those that saw and reported on the game would recall the rebounding record by describing how on some trips down the floor Kentucky would take as many as five shots and the ball never ended up in the hands of the Rebels. The reality is that edition of the Wildcats was not usually a bad shooting team. They would finish the season 21-6 winning the SEC championship. They eventually would make an early exit from the NCAA tournament after losing to Ohio State.
The funny thing about setting a record is that there is always a story behind it and this one is simple. Conley’s quote is a reminder of what happened. To get that many rebounds you have to miss a ton of shots. Sometimes, life reminds us that things take a funny bounce. You can’t always make every shot. There are days when you can’t make any shots at all … or so it seems. But in those moments, remember the lesson taught and learned by the 1963-64 Wildcats – you do need to keep trying and clean up your mess.
Life does take funny bounces, sometimes your life seems to be clanking off the rim. But in order to keep shooting you have to get the ball back. So you have to clean up your miss, even if it is a mess. And when you do – anything can happen!