Iowa Men's Basketball

March 17, 1956: Iowa beats Kentucky to advance to second straight Final Four

Carl Cain's 34 points led Hawkeyes to regional title in Iowa City

The Gazette sports section on March 18, 1956, the day after Iowa beat Kentucky in the regional finals of the NCAA men's
The Gazette sports section on March 18, 1956, the day after Iowa beat Kentucky in the regional finals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

On Saturday, March 17, 1956 – 64 years ago today – the Iowa men’s basketball team beat Kentucky 89-77 at home to earn its second straight trip to the Final Four. The Hawkeyes wouldn’t return until 1980.

Iowa went on to beat Temple 83-76 in the national semifinals before falling to Bill Russell and San Francisco 83-71 in what remains the program’s lone title game appearance.

Iowa finished the 1955-56 season 20-6, with five seniors averaging double-figures scoring: Bill Logan (17.7), Carl Cain (15.8), Bill Seaberg (13.9), Bill Schoof (10.8) and Sharm Scheuerman (10.1). The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten title with a 13-1 record.

Cain, who was named a first-team All-American, scored 34 points in the win over Kentucky.

Here is The Gazette’s coverage of the Hawkeyes’ regional final victory from 1956.


Cain Pours in 34 Against Kentucky

By Gus Schrader, Gazette sports editor

IOWA CITY – The Iowa Hawkeyes saved one of the greatest games for the home finale, smashing into the National Collegiate finals for the second straight year with a resounding 89-77 victory over Kentucky Saturday night.

The Hawks now move to the four-team finals at Evanston, Ill., next Thursday and Friday. Their first foe will be Temple, the Eastern champion, Thursday night.

Saturday’s regional final was nothing more than a fitting home farewell to the Hawkeye seniors who have given this university their three most glorious basketball years in history.

Carl Cain, scaling new heights even for him, slammed in 34 points for his best scoring night. Right behind him came Sharm Scheuerman, starring in a new role as a shooter, pivot man, rebounder and feeder, all wrapped up in one.


Scheuerman got 22 points. He made eight fielders on his first 10 shots. Both Sharm and Cain turned into rampaging demons just before the first half ended, turning a six-point Kentucky lead into an 11-point Iowa margin at the half, 49-38.

Scheuerman bagged 10 of Iowa’s first 27 points and then Cain took over. He rained in 16 of the last 20 Iowa points just before the half.

Everyone agreed afterward in the dressing rooms that this latter part of the first half was the turning point. Never again did Kentucky come closer than those 11 points, despite some great shooting by Bob Burrow and Jerry Bird, the Wildcats’ two tall boys.

Burrow got 31 points and Bird 23. The final rebounding figures gave Kentucky a small margin of 57 to 55, another bow to Bird, who raked in 24 personally.

It would be incorrect to say that Iowa faltered early in the game when Kentucky assumed the pace. Rather, it was a case of a Kentucky team that was vastly improved over its performance the previous night in ousting Wayne.

But once the Hawks started fast-breaking there was no stopping them. The largest crowd in several seasons at Iowa – estimated at 15,375 – roared in approval as the margin mounted, sometimes to as much as 20 points.

Iowa fans got a scare about a physical condition of one of their stars for the second straight night. Bill Schoof suffered a bad charley horse near the end of the first half and couldn’t return to action.

Bob George, another of the brilliant seniors, took his place and more than took up the slack. He scored six points and hooked 11 rebounds.


Cain had to be helped off the floor Friday night after suffering a calf muscle cramp, but his jumping and racing showed no ill effect Saturday night.

Iowa shot a burning 45 percent in the first half, and tapered off to 39.8 percent for the entire game. Kentucky’s shot percentage was almost equal at 39 percent.

But Iowa’s accuracy at the free throw lane was a big factor. The Hawks made 23 free throws to 13 for the Wildcats, despite the fact that there were 18 fouls on Iowa and 19 on Kentucky.

After getting the first points on Bill Schoof’s jump shot, Iowa fell behind in the early going. Bob Burrow hit two quick buckets to give Kentucky a 4-2 lead, and Iowa tied on Sharm Scheuerman’s jump shot.

Kentucky’s Jerry Bird and Iowa’s Carl Cain each scored two points, Bird on a rebound and Cain on two free throws. Kentucky turned loose a surprisingly good fast break and jumped into the lead, 8-6, on Bird’s drive-in.

Sixteen minutes and 45 seconds remained in the half at that point, and Kentucky stayed ahead until Iowa pulled into a brief tie at 16-16 with 12:20 to go. Scheuerman was doing most of Iowa’s scoring in this stretch. He had ten points with 5 minutes remaining in the half.

Bill Seaberg contributed five straight points on a fielder and three free throws to give Iowa a 25-24 lead. Burrow promptly erased this with a hook shot.

Bird continued his deadly scoring and rebounding for the Wildcats, hitting a free throw and a fielder to give Kentucky 29 points. Iowa matched this on Scheuerman’s drive shot and Bill Logan’s pump from the corner. Schoof suffered an ankle injury and retired to the dressing room.


Iowa grabbed the lead with 4:50 to go on Seaberg’s two perfect free throws. Then Cain sailed high and drilled in a faraway hook shot.

Kentucky began to lose its poise, and a few seconds later Cain leaped above the rim to deflect one of Scheuerman’s lofty passes through the cords. It was 35-29, Iowa’s biggest lead so far, with 3:57 remaining.

Bob George, who replaced the injured Schoof, suddenly found Cain all alone and hurled a floor-length strike to run the count to 37-29 before Phil Grawemeyer countered with a perfect long shot.

Iowa jumped away to a 43-33 lead with two minutes left, mainly on the scoring of Scheuerman and Cain. Grawemeyer melted this to 43-36 on a three-point play when fouled by George.

Cain hit a new high at this stage. He rolled in two more free throws and tipped in one of Scheuerman’s attempts for a 47-38 halftime led.

Cain scored 16 of Iowa’s last 20 points in the first half, giving him a total of 21 in the first 20 minutes.

Cain made his seven goals in the first half in ten shots. Scheuerman scored his six goals on only eight attempts.

Bucky: George Was ‘Terrific’

By Gus Schrader, Gazette sports editor


IOWA CITY – There was no whooping and noisy celebrating in the Iowa dressing room Saturday night. Instead, the Hawks seemed grimly content that they had nailed down a second straight regional triumph with a great performance.

“I’m tickled to death the kids could win this last one at home in such fine style,” Coach Bucky O’Connor said. “You know, we’ve never paid a great deal of attention to that nonconference streak of ours, but this one tonight was against one of the toughest opponents we’ve faced in this 14 years.”

Bucky thought the big turning point was late in the first half when Iowa stormed ahead to stay.

“It was one of our finest games, and we needed to play our best,” Bucky said, “this Kentucky is a real fine club.

“I thought our fast break was as good as ever, our defense was good, but there wasn’t much we could do about Burrow when he hit so well from outside.

“Bob George did a terrific job in relief. Our speed and ball handling were the big reasons we came from behind there in the first half, coupled with a little Kentucky let-down in rebounding at the same time.”


Bucky will not be able to lie in bed this morning as the coach of a championship club might be entitled. Instead, he had to roll out at 4:40 a.m. and catch a train to Chicago for an NCAA schedule meeting.

“We’re going to set the sites for next year’s NCAA tournaments,” Bucky said.


Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky agreed with Bucky that the game’s outcome was greatly affected by the final minutes of the first half.


“We lost it at that point,” the Baron said. “Iowa got going and their home crowd game them a tremendous lift.”

Rupp allowed that Carl Cain had “hurt us about as much as anyone ever did,” and that’s fair country praise coming from a coach who has seen as many great ones as Rupp has.

Red Peppers

By Gus Schrader

End of the NCAA Rainbow

Just two games to glory,

And all the chips they’ll rake

First they must ring Temple’s bell

And then make ‘Frisco quake!

One of the officials at the NCAA regional tournament in Iowa fieldhouse Friday and Saturday nights was John Nucatola, a veteran basketball referee from New York City who has worked in all the big tournaments at Madison Square Garden and other sites.

After the Hawks wound up the two-night show by ripping Kentucky, 89-77, Saturday night, Nucatola told Iowa Coach Bucky O’Connor: “I’ve seen hundreds of great basketball players, but I’ve never seen anything to match what your boy Carl Cain showed in this tournament.”

That fine tribute for the brilliant Iowa forward was almost matched by what many were saying about Sharm Scheuerman’s play. I wish someone had attached one of those mileage meters on Sharm Saturday night, because he must have traveled 20 miles against Kentucky.

He darted in and out of Kentucky’s defense, playing the pivot part of the time, grabbing rebounds, knocking in tip-ins, starting the fast break, tossing hook shots and still managing to do a big share of feeding the ball to the others.

That’s the feature of this Hawkeye team. They have the balance that kills. Any team that tries to concentrate on any one or two individuals finds one of the other three breaking loose for the deciding points.

Take Saturday night’s game for example. I would imagine that Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp had a scouting “book” on the Hawks. If he did, undoubtedly this information was available on Scheuerman:


“Scrappy defensive player and good rebounder but won’t hurt you as a scorer because he doesn’t shoot more than four or five times a game and will turn down shots to pass off … etc.”

Imagine the turn-about when Sharm blossomed out into a red-hot shooter. He took 13 shots, which must have been his high for the season.

But none of those attempts was a reckless shot, and not onced did he shoot when there was a teammate open in a better position. What’s most important, he cashed eight of the attempts. In fact, he made his eight goals on his first ten shots before missing the final three.

Any One of Three Bills Outstanding

Players reach peaks at different times, and it could be that Scheuerman is just scaling his. It must be remembered that he missed Iowa’s first three games this season because of a serious kidney bruise.

It would be poor advice, of course, for any scout to tell Temple to concentrate on Cain and Scheuerman in Thursday’s game at Evanston. About that time, if the Hawks follow their pattern, it will be one of the three Bills – Logan, Seaberg and Schoof – who will cut loose.

Seaberg scored nine points in each of the regional games, considerably below his 14.8 average. He didn’t have his usual accuracy either night scoring on only four of 12 shots against Morehead and only two of 12 against Kentucky.

Seaberg still has never played a really bad game for Iowa, and he’ll be likely to shower in one of his 20-point nights the minute the opposition is inclined to overlook him.

Same for Logan. He was overshadowed by Cain and Scheuerman in the last two games, but still scored 17 and 14 points, good night for any player in NCAA competition. He was facing one of the nation’s top centers in Bob Burrow, the Kentucky star who already has been tapped for the Olympic tryout squad.


Schoof had a 15-point night against Morehead, and then suffered a charley horse against Kentucky with five minutes to go in the first half. He should be mended by Thursday night, and no opponent has ever dared forget about him.

Don’t forget about Bob “Stork” George, who gave the Hawks 25 minutes of fine relief ball Saturday night.

Or Augie Martel, another clutch reserve on Friday night. Iowa’s bench has won few bouquets this season, but it’s answered every call satisfactorily ever since the play-for-keeps began.

Pass the Hash

• Newsmen were gathering their final quotes in the Iowa dressing room Saturday night, when Coach Bucky O’Connor asked a small favor. “I wish you writers could tell all the Iowa fans how much we appreciate the way they have supported our team,” he said. “I would like to thank everybody for the tremendous backing they’ve given us in all our games. I don’t know how that sounds, but I mean it sincerely.”

• This, then is the Golden Era of Iowa basketball. Fact is, it’s one of the high points in all of Iowa athletics history. No matter whether these players win, lose, or don’t even show up at Evanston this week, they rank as one of the very best teams ever to represent this state. I don’t know how many years there will be a University of Iowa. But so long as there is, this Hawkeye basketball team will be the measuring stick for future outfits. Just as we sometimes say, “This is the best Iowa football team since 1939,” or “the best since the 1921-22 teams,” so will future journalists say, “This is the best Iowa basketball team since the 1955-56 Hawks.” Before these kids came along, Iowa had won only seven undisputed Big Ten titles and shared eight others, and THAT’S IN ALL SPORTS COMBINED! This is the first time an Iowa team ever won two straight undisputed championships in any sports. Iowa has had nationally famous teams in several sports in recent years, but nothing quite to match the present record. I hope the university or state prepares a fitting honor to these Hawks when they return from Evanston, and that should go whether they come back first or fourth.

• Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky praised Iowa’s team after Saturday’s game, but he couldn’t help remark to newsmen that he thought Iowa’s home crowd was a big factor when the tide turned just before the half. Later he and Bucky O’Connor were discussing the possibility of an Iowa-Kentucky game in the future. “It can’t be this next season,” Bucky said, “because we’re all filled up, but maybe we can work it out after that.” Rupp drawled, “Good. We’d like to play you down there, because you know we’ve got guys down there at Lexington who can yell as loud as your fans up here.” Bucky didn’t need to apologize for any benefit his team got in playing on its home court, because the NCAA chose Iowa as the site a year ago. It probably would be more fair to play the regionals at neutral sites, but the NCAA certainly cleaned up at the gate. There wer close to 28,000 paid admissions. “We didn’t get much out of it financially,” said Bucky. “The NCAA doesn’t even pay rent on the fieldhouse. The other teams get travel expense, but we didn’t even get mileage from Hillcrest to the fieldhouse.” The NCAA gets the proceeds and later will give each competing tournament team a check in proportion to the number of games played.

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