Fond Fieldhouse memories

Posted on Jan 29, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

The following post was contributed by KU staff member, local artist and Lawrence native Matthew Woodard. In anticipation of a return visit to Allen Fieldhouse to watch the Jayhawks play against Iowa State, he takes us on a walk down memory lane, recalling some of his favorite fieldhouse moments.

It’s difficult to imagine that it’s been 20+ years now since this game. As a Christmas present that year my eldest brother, Bill, gave dad a pair of tickets to the game. As a result, I had an opportunity to go to Allen Fieldhouse with dad 3 days before Christmas, Dec. 22, 1993. As it turned out, it would be one of the great finishes in KU basketball history and one of the best gifts dad or I ever could have imagined. We were near the crow’s nest in the northeast corner of the Fieldhouse and had both practically knocked ourselves out several times on one of the massive rafters that straddled our seats. We joked many times that the fire marshal looked exceptionally anxious as the crowd was shoe-horned in – standing room only. Coach Bob Knight had brought his 12th ranked Indiana Hoosiers to the house that Phog built for a showdown with 6th ranked Kansas.

Damon Bailey was ridiculously awesome that night for Indiana scoring 30 of his 36 after halftime. A feat that was unrivaled by a visitor until Kevin Durant visited this shrine to college basketball many years later. He also added 4 assist/5 rebounds & a steal, for good measure. Greg Graham had 22 & Alan Henderson added 16 and 11 rebounds for IU. Richard Scott tossed in 23 points to go with his 10 rebounds & freshman Jacque Vaughn added 13 points, 5 assists, a rebound & 2 steals for KU.

The game was a classic.
It more than lived up to the hype.
The ending … was epic.

Bailey drained a three for IU to tie the game with 18.3 left in OT. Then “Vaughn brought the ball down and patiently tried to set up the offense and a shot for Steve Woodberry, who had scored seven of his 13 points in overtime. But the screen that was supposed to set Woodberry free for an open 12-foot shot never developed.” So the freshman point guard drove the ball to the right wing and calmly shot faked then pulled the trigger for a game-winning 3-pointer over Indiana’s Todd Leary that splashed the net with 0.2 seconds remaining in OT for an 86-83 Jayhawks victory and an early Christmas present to KU fans.

The ensuing eruption from the Fieldhouse fans and the KU bench was like nothing I’ve ever witnessed. 16,300+ people leaped from their seats in unison and let out a roar that surely tested the structural integrity of the walls and roof of the venerable old barn. Coincidentally, I believe they may have replaced the old windows not long after that.

Dad and I were both flush from screaming and jumping in & out of our seats as most all of the sell-out crowd stayed behind cheering and celebrating 10-15 minutes after the final buzzer. No one wanted to leave after the show was over. The band kept playing and the fans kept cheering and showering the team with love even after they had left the floor.

Jacque Vaughn, one of dads favorite Jayhawks of all time, gave us a gift that keeps on giving.

A decade later, my re-telling of our experience earned us a pair of free tickets to a #3 Texas/#12 Kansas matchup on Jan. 27, 2003 – just two short days after an epic battle with #1 Arizona that left many fans in attendance both heartbroken and legally deaf. That cold January evening we were in attendance as one of the greatest performances by a Kansas player unfold as Nick Collison dropped 24 pts and grabbed 23 boards garnering a standing ovation from Dick Vitale and carrying the home team to a much needed win (ending a 2-game slide) over a top ranked Texas team mostly full of giants – other than “little” T.J. Ford who had 25 pts/10 reb/7 assists. A dozen or so students ran on the court after the horn sounded and the small band of exuberant fans were promptly informed by the sold out crowd that such court-storming is not permitted in this house… except following a National title victory. [“GET OFF THE COURT!!!”] Alas, that’s another lengthy story and a great memory, as well.

Nonetheless, tonight I get a chance to enter the building once again as I have been fortunate enough to do many times before. This time, dad won’t be there with me in person though I’m sure he most certainly will be in spirit. No, tonight I get the pleasure of taking my wife to her first ever basketball game – Iowa State @ Kansas – and it will be in one of the greatest venues in the sport. Though she may not be all that interested in the game itself, I am sure the experience, the traditions and the ghost or two that may be hovering overhead in the Phog will be captivating and inspire a new and lasting memory for both of us. Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware Of “The Phog!”

Do you have a favorite memory of KU or Allen Fieldhouse? Share your story at share@kualumni.org!