Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Emporia State upset KU basketball? It happened 65 years ago

A photo from Emporia State's 1947 game against Kansas University at White Auditorium in Emporia. Emporia State won the game, 67-44.

A photo from Emporia State's 1947 game against Kansas University at White Auditorium in Emporia. Emporia State won the game, 67-44.



Contributed photo/Gwen Larson/Emporia State University yearbook archive

Gene Cusic, top right, is shown in this 1948 Emporia State yearbook photo, alongside a picture of his team in this unmarked game photo.


Contributed photo/Gwen Larson/Emporia State University yearbook archive

Gene Cusic, third from left on top row, is shown in this 1947 Emporia State yearbook photo.

Gene Cusic only missed one game during his collegiate basketball career because of sickness.

Sixty-five years later, he wishes it hadn’t been when his Emporia State Teachers College team defeated Phog Allen-coached Kansas University, 67-44.

That was Dec. 13, 1947, and it still stands as the last time Emporia State defeated KU in men’s basketball.

“I didn’t expect it to be lopsided,” Cusic said from his Emporia home Monday. “We had a good night, and they didn’t have such a good one.”

Cusic, now 86, wasn’t able to be a part of it. After playing in Emporia’s game two days earlier at Drake, the 6-foot-3 guard/forward came down with a bad case of tonsillitis.

He was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Emporia, where he stayed for three days.

“I brought my radio up there so I could listen to it,” Cusic said. “So I listened to the broadcast for Emporia down there. That’s how I knew what the score was.”

The 23-point defeat, at the time, was the fifth-worst in Allen’s 29 seasons at KU.

The game also was played at Emporia’s White Auditorium. The reason was simple, Cusic said: money.

Allen Fieldhouse was not yet built, with KU playing its home games at Hoch Auditorium.

“Emporia would seat a lot more than KU by far, so it was a financial advantage for KU to come to Emporia to play instead of Emporia going up there,” Cusic said. “Now, they’ve got the Fieldhouse, and it’s vice-versa.”

Cusic remembers the KU game being a huge draw in Emporia.

“The auditorium down here was completely sold out. If you wanted a seat, you had to make reservations to reserve your seat before they ever opened the doors down here that night,” Cusic said, “because all the fire department would let in, they had in that night.”

Even then, the two teams were in different college divisions. KU competed in Div. I, while Emporia was a member of the NAIB (now called the NAIA). Emporia State finished fourth in the NAIB national tournament in Kansas City, Mo., the year before, losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Marshall (yes, that Marshall).

After defeating KU in 1947-48, Emporia went 20-7 before getting eliminated in the round of 16 by eventual NAIB national champion Louisville (yes, that Louisville).

Cusic was in uniform during Emporia State’s game in 1946 against KU. Though he didn’t play, he watched from the bench as the Jayhawks took a 48-42 victory at White Auditorium.

Cusic said the six-point loss that year was quite an accomplishment for Emporia State, as KU featured a lineup with first-team All-Americans Charlie B. Black, Ray Evans and All Big-Six player Otto Schnellbacher with the Hall of Fame coach Allen.

“I remember when I was in high school, (Allen) had written a book about basketball, and the principal had it in his office at the high school,” Cusic said. “I thought, ‘Boy, that’s something.’ Kansas coach, I’m reading his book.

“I had no idea I might be on the floor at the same time he was.”

After growing up in Americus — a small town just north of Emporia — Cusic still lives in Emporia after retiring more than 20 years ago from his job as assistant principal at Lowther Junior High.

Cusic, who believes he’s one of only three members of the 1947-48 Emporia State team still alive along with Meredith Litchfield of Manhattan and Hal McVey, said he plans to watch tonight’s KU-ESU exhibition basketball game on television.

And though it’s been 65 years since it last happened, he’s not completely ruling out an ESU upset in the future.

“Catch them at the right time and there might be (another ESU win over KU),” Cusic said. “At the rate KU’s going now, they won’t for a while. They recruit pretty good material and have been for a number of years. They’re pretty strong.”


5yardfuller 8 years, 5 months ago

Thanks Jesse. I really enjoy reading articles that look back at the history of KU athletics. KU basketball has such a rich history but there is a notable lack of research and writing about it.

BTW, the 67 points scored by Emporia State was the most ever scored against KU up to that time, eclipsing the 63 points scored by Oklahoma against KU in 1942.

kusayzone 8 years, 5 months ago

Nice story Jesse. The blast from the past can show how things cn change over time....

Brad Farha 8 years, 5 months ago

Thank you Jessie. In my mind it's still football season, but I'm still excited for the start of the exhibition basketball games. Here's hoping history does not repeat tonight!

REHawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Welcome back to this hoops board, Jesse. Nice article.

jaybate 8 years, 5 months ago

This is one of the best historical angles I have ever read on KU Basketball. It means the state of Kansas once had its own Hoosier's story. It happened at the college level. Some local KU filmmakers need to turn this into a movie that moves.

Think about this: EState without one of its starters, Cusick, whipped KU!!

100 would have loved this story....and hated KU losing.

The story triggers so many questions.

Who was the Emporia State coach?

Was EState often a better team than KU in those days?

Did KU have a bad team that year?

Why did it take KU so long to build a basketball arena larger than Emporia State's city arena that it probably played in?

What did Allen say to the press after the game?

Just a terrific historical nugget, JNewell.

Rock Chalk!!!

5yardfuller 8 years, 5 months ago

Allen's comments after the game,

"I am not moaning or crying," Allen said, "I am only philosophical. I know what we have, what we need and what we will be facing."

"Athletic fortunes rise and fall in cycles," the good doctor continued. ''It appears that we are in the midst of a falling cycle."

"We have a fine bunch of sophomores, but we need a stabilizer the worst way and we won't have one until Schnellbacher joins the squad next month," Allen said. "I'm not taking anything away from a very fine Emporia State team, but we have a long way to go before we can beat any of the Big Six members."

Allen's comment about cycles is interesting. KU was in the "midst of a falling cycle", having a losing record over a 3-year period after posting a perfect 10-0 conference record in 1946. But 1948 was an Olympic year and also Clyde Lovellete's senior year in high school. Allen foresaw the future and put in motion his plan to win the gold in 1952. An upward cycle began.

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 5 months ago

Did anyone ever find out anything about 100, last I heard was just rumors?

jaybate 8 years, 5 months ago


Thx from the bottom of my heart for those quotes. Awesome. Just awesome.

HornetFan 8 years, 5 months ago

Gus Fish was the Emporia State coach at the time. He was in the second year of his 25 years as head coach for the Hornets.

Dale Stringer 8 years, 5 months ago

Makes me think even more we ought to go back one of these years for an exhibition game.

JayhawkRock78 8 years, 5 months ago

Nice story Jesse,

I always appreciate learning something new about our history. Thanks for the legwork and getting a perspective from someone who was part of the program @ Emporia.

Scott Smetana 8 years, 5 months ago

It looks like the Hornets may have cheated. The goal looks much lower on their far end.

nostradavid 8 years, 5 months ago

Good history lesson. Thanks for the Halloween Eve scare. We drove down from Lawrence in '71 to see the James Gang there.

kerbyd 8 years, 5 months ago

Also love the pic of White auditorium.

Martin Rosenblum 8 years, 5 months ago

I think the ESU team was wearing hoodies that zipped up over their heads!

Tony Bandle 8 years, 5 months ago

Awhile ago, I posted a comment on this site to 100 about one of his fine posts [they were almost, without fail, well thought out, classy and respectful]. He responded that he appreciated the complement but that sometime soon he was "going away."

At the time, it never dawned on me that maybe this was more than just relocating. He loved Kansas and if he could be posting, he would. I have no solid evidence except we have not heard from our good buddy in a long, long time. I fear the worse.

There is a line from the movie,"Serendipity" that rings so true. " When asked about a man's life, the Greeks only asked one question, did he have passion?"

For 100, I think the answer is self-evident.

Steve Gantz 8 years, 5 months ago

I remember this one well, it really got Jaybate going, he posted 11 straight essay length comments consecutively. His wife pried his hands away from the typewriter telling him it's time for bed. It was 4AM.

Martin Rosenblum 8 years, 5 months ago

I know that privacy and anonymitty must exist in this form of media. However, wouldn't it be a fine gesture if the LJW would have a way to use the profile information provided by 100 to learn anything pertinent about his status? Now, that would be a story, a comment forum honoring one of it's most dedicated and respected contributors, without disclosure of his real life identity and reasons for the halt in his comment posting. What do you guys think there in the editor's office?

DevilHawk 8 years, 5 months ago

As we near game time, is there a place to watch or listen to the game online?

Edit: Nevermind, the game will be on ESPN3.

Priest Fontaine 8 years, 5 months ago

My internet provider isn't compatible with ESPN3 for some reason. Is there a link or anything else?

harperhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Can anyone identify where Charley Black was @ in this photo? Very interesting pic!

harperhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Apologies, C. Black had graduated. Link below for season stats if anyone cares to take a look.

Team info.

wmking67 8 years, 5 months ago

Great story. It brings back memories. An incentive for KSTC was an article by Don Pierce. He said KU shouldn't play small small instate schools. Although there was only a small chance of KU losing and ithey did lose Emporia fans would crow long and loud about it. They lost and Emporia fans still talk about it. He overlooked the fact that Emporia State returned all starters that were competitive with a good KU from the preceding year. The starters were :Meredith Litchfield, Bill Litchfield, Wilbur Rieser, Max Smiley, and Corky Wright. Dennis Shogren was a newcomer to the team. He had a left handed jump shot. There weren't many jump shots in those days. He'd cut across the top of the free throw circle, receive the ball and swish. It confused and disheartened KU players and they took a beating. Ernie Quigley had a radio show Sunday morning and he was very impressed.

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