WKU to host 1971 Final Four reunion Saturday

9 02 2011

Per WKU release:

It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since the 1971 Western Kentucky University basketball team capped off that stellar year with a trip to the Final Four in Houston’s Astrodome.

But, that anniversary is just what WKU fans will be celebrating with the members of that great Hilltopper team in E.A. Diddle Arena Saturday (Feb. 12) afternoon. At halftime of the current Hilltoppers’ Sun Belt Conference matchup with North Texas — set for a 3 p.m. (CST) tip-off on ESPN2 — fans will be treated to a trip down memory lane when players, coaches, support staff and cheerleaders from that magic season gather on the floor of The Arena. The half-time ceremony will culminate a special day for the legendary group, as they will also be treated to a reunion luncheon on Saturday and then visit with all current Hilltopper players and coaches in the WKU locker room at 1:45 p.m.

Eight athletes from the ‘71 Toppers are expected to attend, including four of the starting five — guard Rex Bailey, forward Jerry Dunn, forward Clarence Glover and consensus All-America center Jim McDaniels (the fifth starter, Jim Rose, passed away last year).

Other players on the guest list are guards Terry Davis, Jeff Eckel and Danny Johnson; and, forward Chuck Witt. And, from the coaching staff, graduate assistant Mike Kitchens, assistant coach Jim Richards and head coach John Oldham with join their ‘71 club on The Arena floor. Add to that members of the freshman team, support staff and cheerleaders. It all shapes up as a moment to remember!

The 1970-71 Hilltoppers won 24 of 30 games and the Ohio Valley Conference championship on their way to the Final Four. In tournament action, the Toppers roared back from an 18-point deficit late in the first half to nip Jacksonville 74-72 on Glover’s legendary “Shoestring Play” as time expired. Then, WKU powered its way past Kentucky (107-83) in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Next, powerful Ohio State fell 81-78 in overtime to send the Hilltoppers to the Astrodome.

In the national semi-final game, WKU squared off against Villanova in a classic battle in front of more than 30,000 fans. When the dust settled, the two clubs had played head-to-head for 50 minutes before the Wildcats slipped away with a 92-89 double-overtime victory. Two days later the Toppers bounced back to defeat Kansas 77-75 in the third-place game.

McDaniels led that club with his 29.3 points-per-game and 15.1 rpg averages while Dunn and Rose accounted for 15.4 ppg each and Glover averaged 10.9 rebounds an outing. The ‘71 Toppers finished the year ranked seventh in the nation in the polls.  And, WKU seniors Glover, McDaniels and Rose completed their three-year varsity careers in the red and white a perfect 36-0 in games played in Diddle Arena.

The ‘71 Reunion is being sponsored by the WKU Alumni Association, the Department of Athletics and the Alumni W-Club. For game tickets, contact the WKU Ticket Office (1-800-5-BIG-RED).

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