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Runnin’ Utes Legend Arnie Ferrin Remembers Utah’s 1947 NIT Championship

Apr 13, 2020, 11:26 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After winning the NCAA Tournament against Dartmouth in 1944, Utah won the more prestigious NIT Championship in 1947.

KSL Sports continues their series with Utah basketball legend Arnie Ferrin who walked Jeremiah Jensen through the championship run in the 1947 NIT that was capped off with an upset win over Kentucky.

Back then, the mascot for the University of Utah was the Redskins. The group of basketball players on that team led by Ferrin was called the “Blitz Kids.”

NIT Title Win Over Kentucky

After losing to Kentucky in the NIT back in 1944, Utah was able to get revenge on the Wildcats and capture a national championship.

“We were a pretty balanced team with offense and defense,” Ferrin said. “Madison Square Garden is a fun place to play.”

That season, Ferrin was the highest scoring guard in the country. They also had All-American center Vern Gardner along with Leon Watson, Fred Weidner, Wat Misaka, Dick Smuin and Lynam Clark on their squad.

Utah’s defense held Kentucky’s best player to just one point in that game.

“He had one point because I fouled him,” Ferrin jokingly said.

Ferrin mentioned that Vern Gardner was a big part of Utah’s success. The two-time All-American wanted to join Utah’s basketball team, heading south to Salt Lake City from Wyoming. In 1944 when Utah won the NCAA Tournament, that entire team was compiled of players from the state of Utah.

“I remember winning the championship by six points,” said Ferrin. “Our strength was that we played well in tight situations.”

Kentucky Was Talented

Entering the NIT Championship game, Kentucky was heavily favored but Utah pulled off the upset.

“They (Kentucky) were probably the better team than Dartmouth was,” Ferrin mentioned. “I was in the service with one of the Kentucky players. After that game, Utah gave us $20 to go out and eat. Kentucky gave their players $100.”

Another impressive fact about Kentucky was that the same Wildcats team that lost to Utah in 1947 was used on the international stage.

“The Kentucky team that we beat that year, next year they were the United States Olympic team,” stated Ferrin. “So, we can say that we beat the Olympic team. It was a great win for us.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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