Hornets beat Jayhawks — 65 years ago

October 30, 2012

Emporia's White Auditorium was standing-room-only in 1947 when the Kansas Jayhawks came to play the KSTC Hornets. Emporia won 67-44.

Before there was Allen Fieldhouse and “Beware of the Phog,” two former Hornets created priceless memories of playing the University of Kansas basketball team in Emporia. After all, who would ever forget beating the Kansas Jayhawks 67-44.

That was 65 years ago, but Meredith Litchfield of Manhattan and Gene Cusic of Emporia, now in their mid-80s, remember it as if it were yesterday.

Tonight, the current Emporia State Hornet men’s basketball team travels to Lawrence to play KU in an exhibition game, which will be aired on WIBW-TV 13 in Topeka.

In 1947, the Jayhawks and legendary coach Phog Allen came to Emporia for the preseason game against Kansas State Teachers College, as Emporia State was then called.

“KU at that time did not have a very big basketball court,” recalls Cusic. “White Auditorium seated so many more people. KU could make more money if they came here.”

In fact, White Auditorium in downtown Emporia, where Emporia State still plays its games, was standing room only. The two teams had played the year before. In that 1946 game, KU defeated Emporia 48-42, “winning the game from the free throw line as they were outscored from the field,” according to an article in the 1947 Sunflower yearbook.

Litchfield remembers how different the game was 65 years ago — ball handling was key.

“Max Smiley was a clown with the ball,” Litchfield said of a teammate that year. “You never knew where he was going with it; you had to be ready.”

During the game, Smiley matched up with KU All-American Charlie R. Black.

“Max had cupped the ball in his wrist and hand,” Litchfield recalled, “and was bent over with his hand touching the floor. He was looking at Black like ‘I dare you to get it.’

“He dove for the ball,” Litchfield said. “Black was on the floor on all fours. Max had the ball in the air above his head laughing so hard.

“It was such a fun game,” Litchfield concluded. “Everybody talked about that for years.”

From the 1947 Sunflower yearbook, the 1946-47 Hornet basketball team included Gene Cusic, top row third from left, and Meredith Litchfield, top row second from right.

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