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New book details old hoop rivalry

By James D. Horne jhorne@paducahsun.com

It doesn't matter if the blue of Kentucky's Big Blue Nation or the red of the Louisville Cardinals run through the veins, fans of both storied programs will want to pick up a copy of  "Fightin' Words: Kentucky vs. Louisville," and read about the history of the rivalry.

The book chronicles everything from the 12 games between the rivals before the 1983 game, the 24-year buildup to the 1983 game and how it finally became an annual rivalry.

It also covers, in individual chapters, the 31 UK/UL games since the 1983 game. Each chapter contains pregame analysis, game coverage and postgame discussion, with firsthand interviews from players involved. The authors, Joe Cox and Ryan Clark, reveal the effects of each game on both teams and on the history of college basketball.

Forewords in the book are written by former UK coach Joe B. Hall and former UL coach Denny Crum.

"The book came about because Joe and I had done other books about Kentucky basketball, and we wondered what would we as fans want to read about that hadn't been done before," Clark said in a phone interview. "One of the ideas was, why hadn't anyone written about the history of the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry? Because not only is it one of the most contentious rivalries in America, but the history behind it is so interesting.

"One side didn't want to play the other and then the state government had to get involved to make it happen. And then when they finally did, the product was so good that they decided to do it on an annual basis. And now it's gone to where they are meeting in the NCAA Tournament, so that adds to it. We know of six books that talk about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, two teams that have never met in the NCAA Tournament, and it just made us sick, because we want to tell the story of what the best rivalry is. So we were able to do that."

Fans who are interested in the book can get a chance to buy a copy and hear from Cox and Clark when they make an appearance in Paducah today from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Books-A-Million at 2929 James-Sanders Blvd.

The authors will talk in depth about what it took to put the book together, take questions about what they found out in researching the book and sign copies.

"One of the things we want to talk about and one reason we wrote the book is the state of Kentucky has the best basketball anywhere and winning two of the last three championships prove that," Clark said. "So fans of basketball will like to read this to see how the rivalry came about. What we did was take the fan through it game-by-game. Each chapter is a different game and it's interesting to see how many of them came down to really exciting moments and how each one of them has a back story that's not necessarily known, and some are more interesting than the final score."

Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661.

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