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Barry Wortman's 2009 NCAA Tournament Experience Influences a Historic Upset

By MTN Sports Reporter: Christian Skelton

Blackman Boys’ Basketball Coach Barry Wortman’s 2009 NCAA Tournament experience at Morehead State and how it helped them with a historic upset two years later  

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.- Barry Wortman has done a lot in his 30+ year coaching career. He has been everywhere from Shelbyville Central, to Oak Ridge, and to Blackman where he is now. Although he has spent most of his time coaching in high school, his stint in College Basketball is one he looks back on fondly.  

During his time at Morehead State, he accomplished a goal that many set out to accomplish when they begin coaching, coaching in the NCAA Tournament. Wortman spent three seasons at Morehead State serving under head coach Donnie Tyndall as the Associate Head Coach.  

The experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament and everything that comes with it is something that Wortman still holds with him to this day.  

“When you got to the arena that day you just sort of have a shootaround because you practice earlier in the day at a local junior college and then have the press conferences and it was so cool because every team at that site was there that day which was everybody from Louisville of course to also Ohio State and Tennessee. It was packed just for practice, and it was so cool to get to soak that in the day before the game. It was as good of an experience as you could have,” said Wortman. 

In 2009, Morehead State made the NCAA Tournament after winning the OVC tournament as the 4 seed which included a win over Austin Peay in double overtime in the OVC Championship game.  

“Being in a one-bid league and having to win the OVC title by beating a really good Austin Peay team in the OVC Championship game in overtime at Bridgestone was really cool the week before the tournament as well and really prepared us for anything we were going to face in the NCAA Tournament,” said Wortman.  

It was the Eagle's first tournament appearance since 1984 at the time. They were sent to Dayton to first play in the opening round against fellow mid-major 16-seed Alabama State for the right to face top-seeded Louisville. Morehead won that game by 15, which sent them to play their in-state foe and goliath in Louisville.  

“A lot of times in life the expectation of what you have dreamed of super secedes reality but for me personally as a coach getting to play Coach Pitino and Louisville was awesome,” said Wortman.  

The Eagles held their own with the Cardinals for the majority of the game, only being down 35-33 at halftime. Louisville pulled away in the second half, but Morehead still proved that they could hold their own with a massive name in the sport.  

“When we first got to Morehead State it was honestly probably easier to sign a guy outside the state than it was inside and the Louisville area especially. It was just a tough sell cause that’s such a great basketball city and to be able to play them in the NCAA Tournament and compete against them for most of the game was awesome,” said Wortman.  

On that 2009 team were two sophomores that would wind up playing big roles in a future NCAA Tournament game for the Eagles. First, center Kenneth Faried, who would eventually go onto have an eight-year NBA career, had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Also, guard Demonte Harper played a pivotal role in the game and although he only had two points and three assists and rebounds, he played 37 of the 40 minutes in the game.  

Two years later, when Faried and Harper were seniors, they got another shot at the Cardinals.  This time not only were they older, they had more experience and were more prepared for the moment. In 2011 Morehead took on Louisville in the first round once again, this time in the 4 vs 13 seed matchup.  

Faried showcased his talents (which earned him second-team All-American honors that season), with another double-double of 12 points and a whopping 17 rebounds with five of them coming on the offensive end. Harper had his moment to shine as well. With seconds to go the Eagles were down 61-59 with the ball. Tyndall called his number, and Harper hit a game-winning three with 4.2 seconds to go to give them a 62-61 lead that they would never relinquish sending Morehead State to the second round for the first time ever.  

“When I was watching it and it happened, I wasn’t surprised one bit. Just a big-time play by a big-time player,” said Wortman.  

Tyndall revealed after the game that he was up until the wee hours of the morning envisioning the very scenario his team wound up in.  

“I kept saying, ‘What am I going to do here?’ I just said, ‘Man or zone, down one or down two, we’re going for the win,’” said Tyndall.  

As mentioned before, Faried would go onto have a solid NBA career and has played professionally everywhere from China to Russia to currently in Mexico. Harper, a Whites Creek, TN native, has also had a decorated overseas career in which he has mainly played for a number of teams in Europe.  

The historic tournament win for Morehead never would’ve happened without the experience from the matchup with Louisville two years prior. Wortman’s coaching as a part of the staff also helped tremendously with the development of those two pivotal players for the Eagles. Wortman continues to use the stories of Faried and Harper with his Blackman teams today to help them understand what hard work can lead to over the course of a four-year career.  


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