Georgia Tech Basketball 1955

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"Whack" Hyder posing[1]

During the 1955 men's basketball season, Georgia Tech (GT) was part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), led by Coach John "Whack" Hyder. [2] Tech finally had a productive season after almost a decade of sub-par seasons. Though it was one of their best seasons in a while, it still looked like another average season on paper with 12 wins and 13 losses. Even so, the '55 season was considered one of the most legendary seasons in Georgia Tech basketball history. The season can better be classified as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs the Kentucky (UK) Wildcats rivalry season. Out of the 12 wins, Tech defeated the nation's number one team, the Kentucky Wildcats, twice, and this earned Tech the name "Giant-Killers." [3]

Contents

Team

The well recognized team was coached by Georgia Tech's very own John "Whack" Hyder, who became coach in 1951. [2] The team's players included sophomore captain Bobby Kimmel, Jess Carroll, Joe Helms, and Howard Snead as guards. The forwards were Bill Cohen, Lennie Cohen, Lake Kelly, Gary Phillips, Danny MacGregor, and Ennis Anderson. The center position was played by Dick Lenholt. During the games against Kentucky however, only six players played. They were Bobby Kimmel, Bill Cohen, Lennie Cohen, Dick Lenholt, Joe Helms, and Gary Phillips. [4]

Tech vs Kentucky[4]

Early Season

The past seasons had not been up to the level at which Georgia Tech hoped for and they looked to change that in the 1955 season. The first game they played was against Sewanee who they easily put away 79 - 57. Following their game one victory, Tech faced a heartbreaking loss to South Carolina by a narrow margin of 67 - 69. After defeating Idaho State, Hyder's team faced three consecutive losses to Carisius, Georgetown, and Sewanee leading into their away game against the nation's number one team, Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky Wildcats Game

GT's season didn't have the best start with a record of only two wins and four losses. Expectations built up for a loss to the number one team in the nation a couple games into the season. The Kentucky Wildcats were on a 32 game winning streak carrying over from the previous season and a 129 home-game winning streak that began after a home loss to Ohio State in January of 1943.[5] In Kentucky, the game against the Yellow Jackets was to be treated like a practice game where the Wildcats' bench-warmers would get a chance at playtime. Kentucky quickly gained and maintained a seven point lead over the Yellow Jackets. By the second half, though, Wildcat Coach Adolph Rupp found his team down by eight points. UK made a come back and took a 58 - 55 lead with 1:12 left in the game. No one expected Tech to comeback from that score.

Final 1:12

With only 1:12 left in the game, GT Captain Bobby Kimmel was fouled. He made both free throws making the score 57 - 58 with 18 seconds left. Kentucky guard Gayle Rose inbounded the ball to Captain Billy Evans. Evans was heavily guarded by Kimmel and lost the ball to the double team of GT guard Joe Helms. Helms was the smallest person on the court with a height of 5'9". He ran down court and made a jump shot from 12 feet away with 12 seconds left. The score was now 59 - 58 in favor of Tech. During the next 12 seconds, the Wildcats got two shots off but none of them were successful. Linville Puckett attempted a jump shot and missed. Phil Grawemeyer tried to tip the ball in after, but that missed as time ran out. [5][4]

After the Game

After the game, Kentucky Coach Rupp was the first to congratulate Coach Hyder on Tech's victory. The entire stadium was silent except for the celebrating Yellow Jacket's team. Coach Hyder claimed that there was no special game plan for defeating the number one team. He claimed that the five guys who played put in a great effort and deserved all the credit. Kentucky fans and players admitted that the team was not into the game but instead were looking past it at arguably more important upcoming home games. The hit was hard on the undefeated Kentucky. Coach Rupp said to the team, "From this time until history is no longer recorded, you will be remembered as the team that broke that string. Even if you go on to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship, you must carry this scar with you the rest of your lives."[5]

Statistics [4]

Along with the game winning shot, Joe Helms lead the team in scoring with a total of twenty-three points. Since Georgia Tech only used five people throughout the entire game, the players were able to do better on the stat board.

Georgia Tech (Unranked) - 59

Player Field Goals Free Throws Free Throw Attempts Fouls Points
Lennie Cohen 5 0 2 4 10
Dick Lenholt 0 4 6 4 4
Bill Cohen 2 0 1 1 4
Joe Helms 7 9 12 1 23
Bobby Kimmel 4 10 12 2 18
Totals 18 23 33 12 59

Kentucky (Rank 1) - 58

Player Field Goals Free Throws Free Throw Attempts Fouls Points
Jerry Bird 3 1 6 1 7
Phil Grawemeyer 8 3 3 4 19
Bob Burrow 7 2 2 4 16
Ray Mills 0 0 0 3 0
Linville Puckett 5 0 2 3 10
Billy Evans 1 3 5 4 5
Gayle Rose 0 1 2 1 1
Totals 24 10 20 20 58

Season's Low Point

Immediately after the Kentucky game, Hyder's team went on to lose five out of the next six games, losing to Vanderbilt twice, Furman, Mississippi, and eternal rivals UGA. The only game they won was against Mississippi State by a large margin. Tech managed to pull a win against Auburn by only three points, 73 - 70, before losing their last game leading into the second Kentucky game. Tech now had a record of five wins and ten losses. With a thrilling loss to Tennessee, 58 - 59, the awaited Kentucky's arrival in Georgia.

Kentucky's Revenge

Georgia Tech's Fluke

In contrast to Georgia Tech's terrible playing between the two Kentucky games, the Wildcats convincingly defeated all their opponents, showing their dominance on the court. The previous season, Kentucky defeated Tech both times by at least 50 points each game. This season, they were determined to prove that the GT game was a fluke and only occurred because the Wildcats were overconfident. This seemed increasingly plausible with GT's recent losing streak. To prove it was merely a fluke, UK called television crews and reporters to Georgia with them. [5]

Birth of the Giant-Killers

The second meeting between the two teams was in Georgia. Kentucky brought reporters and TV crews to prove that Tech didn't stand a chance and the previous victory held no meaning. However, by half-time, it was obvious that Tech had the skill to defeat them. The Yellow Jackets held to a leading score of 32 - 24. They dispelled any further doubts by defeating the Wildcats once again, 65 - 59. GT was led by Joe Helms, Bobby Kimmel, Bill Cohen, Dick Lenholt, and this time Gary Phillips. Kentucky took another huge blow to their ego by losing in front of a TV crew. This marked the first time in college basketball history that a team coached by Adolph Rupp had lost twice against one Southeastern Conference team in the same season. It was the official end of the "giant" Wildcats' record-breaking win streak, thus giving Georiga Tech the name "Giant-Killers."[6] [3]

Statistics[6]

Helms proved to be too much for the Wildcats once again, leading Tech with 24 points in game two of the series. Kimmel was close behind with 20 points.

Kentucky (Rank 1) - 59

Player Field Goals Free Throws Free Throw Attempts Fouls Points
Jerry Bird 4 2 4 1 10
Phil Grawemeyer 1 0 3 1 2
Earl Adkins 1 0 0 1 2
Ray Mills 0 0 0 1 0
Bob Burrow 9 2 2 0 20
Linville Puckett 4 0 3 5 8
Billy Evans 3 0 0 3 6
Gayle Rose 3 0 0 5 6
Gerry Calvert 1 0 1 0 2
John Brewer 1 1 2 2 3
Totals 27 5 15 19 59

Georgia Tech (Unranked) - 65

Player Field Goals Free Throws Free Throw Attempts Fouls Points
Gary Phillips 1 4 5 1 6
Dick Lenholt 4 1 3 3 9
Bill Cohen 3 0 0 3 6
Joe Helms 9 6 7 1 24
Bobby Kimmel 3 14 18 2 20
Totals 20 25 33 10 65

After the Legend

The rest of Georgia Tech's season was a drastic climb up in the standings. Tech rode the surge of confidence gained from knocking out Kentucky twice. They finished the season only losing three more games and racking up many wins along the way. Georgia Tech's team grew from there, even though they finished that season only breaking even with 12 wins and 13 losses (seven wins and seven losses in the conference). This season in particular sticks out among Hyder's coaching career. It marks the turning point for him as a coach and the year Tech had it's biggest upset in it's basketball history. The season brought around new a friendship between Coach Hyder and Coach Rupp and created a new rivalry between Tech and Kentucky. Hyder wasn't much of a fan of Rupp before because of the many defeats he had faced, but after the 1955 events, they quickly became friends. From this season on, Hyder won six out of the last 10 games they played before Rupp retired.

Scores[3]

Opponent Tech's Score Opp.'s Score W/L Record
Sewanee 74 57 W 1-0
South Carolina 67 69 L 1-1
Idaho State 72 69 W 2-1
Carisius 56 70 L 2-2
Georgetown 62 68 L 2-3
Sewanee 66 67 L 2-4
Kentucky 59 58 W 3-4
Vanderbilt 69 71 L 3-5
Furman 95 111 L 3-6
Mississippi 66 81 L 3-7
Mississippi State 90 71 W 4-7
Vanderbilt 63 83 L 4-8
Georgia 66 70 L 4-9
Auburn 73 70 W 5-9
Tennessee 58 59 L 5-10
Kentucky 65 59 W 6-10
Alabama 72 76 L 6-11
Auburn 75 67 W 7-11
Louisiana State 79 72 W 8-11
Tulane 48 64 L 8-12
Georgia 75 54 W 9-12
South Carolina 87 84 W 10-12
Tennessee 83 77 W 11-12
Georgia 66 67 L 11-13
Florida 88 68 W 12-13

References

  1. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Multimedia.jsp?id=m-8184
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Hyder's basketball coaching" Engineering The New South Georgia Tech 1885-1985, Print
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Basketball 1955" The Blueprint Vol. 48 pg. 348-351 1955, Print
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Tech "Iron Men" Lead 59-58 Win" bigbluehistory.net http://bigbluehistory.net/bb/statistics/Games/19550108GeorgiaTech.html
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Reed, William F. "A Dark Night in Kentucky" Sports Illustrated February 24, 1994, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1004856/index.htm
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Another Win: 65-59" bigbluehistory.net http://bigbluehistory.net/bb/statistics/Games/19550131GeorgiaTech.html
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