Ever heard of Ken Barnes?
Forty-six years ago today, he recorded the greatest individual statistical effort in University of Wisconsin men's basketball history.
The Badgers' game against Indiana on March 8, 1965, was their regular-season finale, and Barnes put a memorable exclamation point on an otherwise ho-hum year.
Wisconsin entered with a 9-12 record overall (4-10 Big Ten), and while Indiana (18-5, 8-5) had put together a respectable year, the Hoosiers weren't in NCAA tournament contention because at that point only league champions qualified for the event.
Legendary Indiana coach Branch McCracken, who announced his retirement earlier in the season, was supposed to be coaching his last game. But McCracken took ill and never made the trip to Madison. Instead, his successor, assistant coach Lou Watson, got an early start on the job. The Hoosiers had the VanArsdale twins, Dick and Tom, who went on to NBA careers, and a point guard, Jon McGlocklin, who gained notoriety as a Milwaukee Bucks player and TV announcer.
But a Badgers junior forward whose high school resume overshadowed his prior accomplishments at Wisconsin stole the spotlight. Barnes was an All-State player from Illinois who had led his Decatur High School team to the 1962 state title by hitting the winning free throw to beat a Chicago Carver team led by future NBA star Cazzie Russell, 49-48. He remains one of the top scorers in Decatur prep history with 1,437 career points.
Barnes started the game for the Badgers that day, as he did for most contests in the 1964-65 season. He was averaging 15.3 points per game (second best on the team) and pulling down 8.8 rebounds.
It wasn't much of a contested game — Indiana won 92-73 — but Barnes kept the 8,034 fans in the Field House in their seats until the end because of his own brilliant individual effort.
The game was tied 10-10 after 8 minutes when Barnes seemingly went one-on-five with the Hoosiers. He scored the Badgers' next 17 points and finished the first half with 23. Along the way he also hit double digits in rebounds to record a double-double by halftime.
Due largely to Barnes' effort, the game was tied at 25 midway through the half, but the Hoosiers took control after that and owned a 48-36 halftime lead. The outcome was never in doubt after that, but the fans stayed to see if Barnes could keep scoring and break the UW single-game scoring record of 35 points set by Don Rehfeldt in 1950 and matched by Jack Brens in 1963.
For a while it appeared the biggest obstacle would be foul trouble; Barnes was whistled for his fourth foul with 11:54 to play, when he had 30 points. He persevered and tied the record on a free throw with 6:40 to play, then broke it at 4:33 with a basket from the right side that trimmed the Hoosiers' lead to 18 points.
Barnes became the first player in 66 years of Badgers basketball to reach 40 points with a free throw at the 2:03 mark and secured his final two points with a basket from the left side with 1:33 to play. He was taken out of the game to a thunderous ovation with 27 seconds left.
In all, Barnes hit 15 of 25 shots, but the rest of the team was no help, going 11 for 55.
Along with the 42 points — achieved without the 3-point shot, which was introduced in 1986 — Barnes also grabbed 23 rebounds, still fifth-best in Badgers history.
Though records from some schools are less than thorough, it appears that only a handful of players ever achieved a "40-20." Six such efforts have been documented, but none since 1971.
It's fair to say that Barnes is the least recognizable member of that club.
Heading the list is three-time All-American Jerry Lucas from Ohio State, who scored 48 points and grabbed 21 rebounds on Feb. 11, 1961. Lucas was named college basketball's Player of the Year that season and was a first-round NBA draft pick.
Another Ohio State player, Gary Bradds, scored 49 points and had 21 rebounds on Feb. 10, 1964. Like Lucas, Bradds was an All American, the college Player of the Year and a first-round draft pick.
Purdue had a scoring and rebounding machine in 1962, when Terry Dischinger nailed a 45/24 game on Feb. 17.
Indiana had two players reach the plateau: Steve Downing, the Big Ten Player of the Year, scored 47 point and snatched 25 rebounds on Dec. 12, 1971; teammate George McGinnis, another All-Big Ten pick, had a 45/20 game on Feb. 1, 1971.
Each one of those players were first- or second-round NBA draft picks, All-Big Ten or All-American, and each stood at least 6 feet, 6 inches.
Barnes, an occasional starter for Wisconsin, was 6-2 and never received even honorable mention in the Big Ten.
For his career, Barnes played in 63 games and scored 620 points, averaging 11 points per game his senior year. He was a 16th round draft pick of the Baltimore Bullets but never played in the NBA.
No Wisconsin player has topped Barnes' 42-point effort; Michael Finley, who went on to a long and productive NBA career, equaled it in a 1994 loss to Eastern Michigan, but he was aided by seven 3-pointers.
Today, Barnes is an administrator at Auburn High School in Rockford, Ill. He coached the boys basketball team from 1977-82 and guided Auburn to the Illinois state tournament in 1979 with a 26-4 record. The Knights were 78-49 in his five years.
This trip down memory lane comes courtesy Jack Eich, who compiles the Wisconsin Sports Minute, a radio feature that can be heard daily on 21 stations in the state, including WTSO-AM/1070 in Madison at 6 a.m. For more tales from state sports history, visit the Wisconsin Sports Minute website.