SOUTH BEND — Two of the top eight all-time winningest men’s college basketball programs have agreed to a three-game series beginning in December.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Kentucky Wildcats announced Thursday the two storied programs have scheduled games over the next three seasons. The first game is Dec. 12 with the Irish traveling to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, the second game is Dec. 11, 2021, at a neutral site yet to be determined, and the third is Dec. 10, 2022, at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
“It is great to renew a series between two of the ‘blue bloods’ of college basketball,” Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey said on the school’s website. “If our recent battles with Kentucky are any indication, these games should be appointment viewing for college basketball fans.”
The last meeting between the schools was in the Elite Eight at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Andrew Harrison swished two free throws with six seconds left as the No. 1-ranked Wildcats remained unbeaten.
The game drew the highest rating ever recorded for a college basketball game broadcast on cable television.
The Atlantic Coast Conference champion Irish finished with a 32-6 record. Leading scorers were Zach Auguste with 20 points, Steve Vasturia with 16 and Jerian Grant with 15.
Notre Dame and Kentucky first played in 1929. The Irish won six of the first seven meetings, but the Wildcats have controlled the series since — taking a 43-19 advantage.
Notre Dame’s last win in the series was Nov. 29, 2012, when the Irish posted a 64-50 victory in South Bend. Eric Atkins netted 16 points, Jack Cooley and Grant had 13 apiece and Cameron Biedscheid added 10 to lead the winners.
Among the tough Irish losses in the series was a contest in the 1958 NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame had just knocked off Indiana and was one win away from the Final Four. The Irish, led by All-Americans Tommy Hawkins and John McCarthy, got into early foul trouble and suffered the worst postseason defeat in school history, 89-56.
In the 1970 NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats eliminated the Irish despite 52 points from Austin Carr. The ND legend was coming off a tournament-record 61 points in a first-round win over Ohio.
Among the series highlights for the Irish is a six-game losing streak for the Wildcats at The Notre Dame Fieldhouse when Kentucky was coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp.