A century after the last time the Transylvania Pioneers took on the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, the two teams finally met again Nov. 2 in an exhibition game at Rupp Arena. The Pioneers weren’t supposed to win this game — and they didn’t, losing 97–53 — but few of the 24,000 fans present expected the Transylvania players to put up such a great fight.
Transylvania jumped all over the Wildcats early, building an 11–4 lead while beating Kentucky players to rebounds and knocking down open 3-pointers. The score remained close for almost the entire first half, with the Pioneers trailing 26–21 at the 6:30 mark before heading into halftime down 37–23.
But the story of the game wasn’t the score, and Coach Brian Lane knew that coming in. The story was the celebration of two schools within two miles of one other — one a basketball powerhouse producing national championships and NBA legends, and the other a non-scholarship, Division III team full of local kids proudly representing their school on the game’s biggest stage. The story was also the first meeting between the teams since 1911, reinvigorating a series that had stayed tied 7-7 for too many years.
From the moment Coach Lane and the team walked the 2,200 feet down Broadway from the Beck Center to Rupp Arena to the singing of the last verse of “My Old Kentucky Home” — for which both teams stayed on the court after the game — the Pioneers basked in the limelight and made the Transylvania fans scattered around the arena proud.
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