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Kentucky spoils one story, writing a classic of its own

Three weeks ago in South Carolina, a teary-eyed Aaron Harrison told reporters that this season was still going to be a “great story.” His words rang a bit hollow during the low point of the season, but tonight, after one of the greatest basketball games I’ve ever witnessed, I’m not only seeing that story, I’m believing it.

Everything was set up for Wichita State to win. Despite going to the Final Four and being a number one seed, the mid-major darling still got the Cinderella treatment, and at halftime, the media had their recaps written. “36-0 vs. the team that was supposed to be 40-0.” Even with all the talent in the world, Cal’s one-and-done’s were just freshmen, and would never stay in school long enough to develop the maturity and experience like Ron Baker’s, or Cleanthony Early’s. The leadership just wasn’t there, and because it’s Calipari and because it’s Kentucky, it never will be. Right, national media? Right?!?

Wrong. Kentucky came out in the second half and tore those recaps into confetti, not only withstanding Wichita State’s punches, but delivering ones of their own. The freshmen were no longer freshmen–down the stretch, they played with the poise of seniors, sinking free throws and tightening the noose on defense. A very good Wichita State team gave Kentucky their best shot, and unbelievably, Kentucky responded, coming together as the team we always knew they could be.


After the game, Willie Cauley-Stein said that three weeks ago, Kentucky would not have won this game. Since the regular season ended, the Cats have undergone an unbelievable transformation, bouncing back from their mistakes faster, and creating plays instead of waiting for them to happen. Suddenly, all those struggles Kentucky went through are actually helping them, as Cal said in the postgame press conference:

“You have to understand again, they have been through so much. They have been attacked, they have been bludgeoned, they can’t play, they’re not a team, you can’t do it this way. But they stayed together. It makes you strong. It makes you tough as nails. And we just hung around.”

It all starts with the player that many thought wouldn’t even play tonight. Sore elbow and all, Andrew Harrison stepped up and led the team, sinking shots and crucial free throws with the poise of a pro. Andrew admitted that he was close to not playing because of the pain, but fought through it because he “just had to”:

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to play at first, but I felt like I just had to. And I fought through it. The elbow, once you get your adrenaline flowing, it felt fine, but it was still a little painful.”

You couldn’t tell by his actions. Andrew finished with 20 points off 6-9 shooting from the floor and 7-9 from the free throw line. His brother Aaron wasn’t too shabby either, nailing some threes when the Cats needed the most. Those two have endured enormous scrutiny since coming to UK, and only in the postseason say they’re finally having fun. Had Andrew not played today, this would be a very different recap. He’s the leader this team needs.


Andrew’s leadership was essential, but Julius Randle’s presence in the second half was huge. After scoring only two points in the first half, Randle went to work, finishing with 13 points and ten rebounds. He had more offensive rebounds (5) and second-chance points (6) than the entire Wichita State team. He also had a career-high six assists, a very encouraging stat and one that speaks to how well Kentucky played down the stretch. Cal admitted that he’s struggled with coaching Andrew and Julius at times this season, but now, we’re finally seeing what happens when they buy in.

All season long, this team has been burdened with unreasonably high expectations, and only in the postseason, when it’s either win or go home, have they been able to focus on what matters. Willie Cauley-Stein said that when the buzzer sounded this afternoon, “it felt like five million pounds came off our shoulders.” Kentucky didn’t just beat a good team tonight, they beat a great one, and with that, confidence will continue to grow. Andrew said that the win was big because it was a validation of all the hard work they’ve done. Julius said it was proof that what they’re doing is working:

“All of the adversity we have been through all season, just to see us coming together as a team and getting better each game, and finally get a big win like that, just enjoyed it. Everybody was happy and we just have to keep building on it.”

One of Cal’s most popular phrases lately has been how far this team still has to go. Before today, that comment terrified me. After today, it excites me. Kentucky went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country today and won. You’re telling me this story gets even better??


What better twist than playing your arch rival in the Sweet 16? When the brackets came out, we saw the matchup with Louisville looming, and now it’s here. Defending national champs against last year’s defending champs. The last team to beat Louisville in the tournament? Kentucky. For the second game in a row, the pressure may be off the Cats again; they’ve beaten the Cards once this season. The matchups are still in our favor. As Willie Cauley-Stein said after the game, “I feel like we were a lot better than them then,” and this team’s ten times better than they were on December 28th. The Cats are riding a freight train of momentum into Indy, and with this win, I’m not sure they can be stopped.

It’s gonna be one hell of a week, folks.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

68 responses to “Kentucky spoils one story, writing a classic of its own”

  1. Rick

    How in hell are we a 5 point underdog? I don’t see it

    1. Haha

      Bet while you can!!!

  2. hal


  3. MikeUKFan

    Very well said. Great read.

  4. RichCat

    The only thing that worries ma about that last celebration pic from the bench is Derek Willis. He doesn’t look too excited.

    1. Haha

      Watch the celebration video. He was flat out pumped.

    2. Dee W.

      What “Haha” said – and plus, Willis is not an emotional person – very stoic – rarely smiles in pictures, even after a huge win (remembering him from Bullitt East – just look up their facebook page for basketball and get to previous year’s pictures after big wins – face is totally stoic in pictures).

      I was seeing him during the game and he was jumping out of his seat when big plays were being made and had excited expressions on his face – very unusual – so he must have REALLY been pumped.

    3. Dee W.

      here’s an example of what I was talking about – see D-Will’s reaction after the three is hit:

    4. DT in DC

      Thanks for that video because that was my first reaction to that photo, too. I think he’s going to be a great player for us!

  5. JTA

    That line about momentum gave me goosebumps TT!

  6. Making up for last year

    Has anyone realized that if UK makes it to the National Championship game they will have gone through Wichita State, Michigan (most likely), and UL. That’s three of the four Final Four teams from last year. It’s as if Kentucky wanted to make up for not being the fourth team and missing the tournent. Problem is, we’ve got to get past two more really tough teams.

    1. Isaac in Louisville

      I honestly think it’ll be Tennessee and not Michigan. UT is on a TEAR.

  7. Wow

    I was there, what an amazing game and nothing better than having my team come play in my city and put on a show. unbelievable

  8. Catcounsel

    Wonderful post Mrs. T with supernatural photos! A wonderful victory for the Big Blue Machine today, AND THEY ARE NOT DONE YET! I was disenchanted to see Kentucky let this Missouri Valley conference team stay in it right up until the final buzzer! At least the scoreboard looked right when the clock said 00:00! On to Indianapolis, I believe, and lets kick those red birds ASSES! GO BIG BLUE! Hoping Kentucky beats the spread once again!

  9. ukat68

    WOW, what a game!!! Just got home from the Gateway city and getting ready to pack my bags for Indy. Can’t wait!!! GO CATS!!!

  10. Dude

    Virginia DESTROYED Memphis, a team that swept the Tards. Is the AAC finally getting exposed for the fraud that many think it is???

  11. EK

    Where are all the know it all coaches and band wagon fan…? And where are all the loserville trolls? Damn BIG WIN!! The Twins were GREAT, hell the whole team played GREAT!! Friday can’t get .here fast enough. Like I”ve said since CAL signed on…. IN CAL WE TRUST!! F-CK ALL THE HATERS!! GO CATS!!

    1. Dee W.

      Yeah, and the “true” UK fans who said that any real fan would be *hoping* for a loss to Kansas State in the opening round to get the season over with.

  12. John

    Tennessee worries me more than any team left in our bracket.

    1. KG

      Me too.

  13. LA

    Very well written piece. You wont see good writing like that from the herald leader.

  14. ukfaninohio

    Any way to get tickets for just the Uk game?Everywhere i see sells the whole session trying to find a couple cheaper tickets

    1. SmartPerson

      1 session, they don’t clear the arena between games.

    2. SKat

      “All Session” tickets are for games on Friday and Sunday. You can buy tickets for one session (i.e. for both games Friday or one game on Sunday). Single game tickets are not available since, as SmartPerson states, the arena is not cleared between games. Now that Kentucky is in, ticket prices are rising exponentially. Taking 30 minutes to call some friends cost me about $60. You can find some single-seat tickets a little cheaper. Game of a lifetime, so put out the dough. 2012 games in Indy were pure gold! We need to pack the arena with BLUE!

    3. DT in DC
  15. Mike Beck

    Quote from CBS article tonight:

    “Because Wichita State was that impressive in defeat. The Shockers didn’t win, I know. But they went basket-for-basket with a roster of future NBA Draft picks, and, more important, they very much looked the part. That doesn’t make the loss sting any less. But it’s something.”

    Bottom line Cats move forward and Wichita goes home…and CBS Sports is full of no talent hacks.

    1. SKat

      All four panelists picked Shockers on pre-game show (experience over talent, etc.). Sir Charles usually likes Kentucky (SEC apologist), but not today. He got the last words: “Go Shockers!” Did not get to hear them all eat crow after the game. I don’t know that I’ve felt any more satisfied after a Kentucky win. If Cats had lost, they were building the story of “The End of One and Done”. Imagine the Sports Illustrated story comparing the “UK one-and-done NBA star machine’s” loss to the “blue-collar student athlete farmboys” as the game that changed the landscape of NCAA basketball. Shades of Texas Western 1966. Face it Big Blue fans. Kentucky Wildcats’ prominence in basketball will forever have us painted by the media as the bad guys. On what planet does an 8-seed, unranked Kentucky team defeat the previously unbeaten, #2 ranked and 1-seeded team and still get no respect?

    2. somuchforunbiasedjournalism

      It’s getting so bad on the biggest networks that the article by CBS does not surprise me that much (CauseBiasSells). They’re so arrogant now they don’t even try to hide their bias. That’s why people are turning their backs on those sites for sites like this. Thanks, KSRadio! Great article!

  16. RSMinton

    Enjoy your D-League team Kensucky fans. Unbelievable how many more calls WSU should have received. If I’m Coach Marshall, then I’m protesting this game. All year long it’s an absolute fact that we did not lose a single game, the SEC sucks, UK missed on this class, Calipari can’t coach, and experience wins over talent. Too bad none of that matters when a corrupt coach pays off the refs.

    1. Bye

      Blah blah blah. Enjoy the off season. See ya next year.

    2. Wow


    3. bigbluecoop

      See that 1 in you loss column? Suck on it!

    4. bigbluecoop


    5. See, that's where you're wrong

      The NCAA tournament is no place for facts.

    6. Louisville1Cal5

      Hahahahaha single most ignorant sentence typed so far in the year 2014 whether this is a true WSU fan or a little brother fan.

    7. eddie vedder

      Oh, the one Wichita troll is back. I thought UL fans were dumb. I love your team, but you’re an idiot. And how does our ass taste.

    8. KenTucky

      1. Butt hurt much to come on Kentucky sports blog to complain?
      2. Our D-leaguers just beat W-State’s future “pharmaceutical” salesmen.
      3. Kentucky has played against the referees many, many games this season, even in Rupp Arena. The better team will find a way, and they did today!
      4. Maybe you noticed Marshall did protest, a bit much and out of the coach’s box. He was very fortunate not to get T’d up. Calipari was thrown out of a game in Rupp Arena for much less!
      5. The SEC is undefeated in this tournament! Try playing Florida twice and your team is guaranteed two more losses.
      6. Wichita State 2014: 35 and 1 and DONE! Talk to Tom Crean about getting a good deal on “NCAA Round of 32” rings, T-shirts and banners. UK is on to play another Kentucky team and no, we will not be celebrating our win over Wichita State on popcorn boxes.

    9. Wow


    10. Dee W.

      Oh yeah – LOL – if we paid the refs off then we would have had fouls called when there was serious contact like a dozen times against us without a call.

      Pitiful attempt at trolling. Or are you actually a UK fan trying to make fun of trolls by posing as one and posting this ridiculousness?

    11. Buckets

      Typical Louisville fan, always trollin’, trollin’, trollin’.

  17. John Ellis

    Wichita State wasn’t a very good team, they were great. Should have beaten Lullville in the FF last year. The two most impressive teams in the tournament today were Kentucky and Wichita State. If UK plays like that they will have no trouble with UL. If they play like K.St. it will be close.

    1. Still the best

      I would have to say after watching virginia last night they were one of the most impressive teams to play so far in the tourney

      GO CATS

  18. magnum

    Good article for a woman.

  19. SKat

    I’ll try to be humble, but I must take credit for the Cats win today. I watched the game in my hotel room in the Bahamas, wearing my UK shorts and UK T-shirt (two tournament wins now). I stood for the last 13 minutes of the game and I had my hands on the UK logos on my outfit for every free throw down the stretch (OK, I had an itch to scratch on the last one Andrew missed). “It’s not weird if it works!” Anyone want to book my hotel room for next weekend’s games? The casino here has not been so kind to me.

  20. Eh

    Very good article TT.
    Am I the only one marveling at how high those guys were in the air? If I could jump like that, I could survive the zombie apocalypse . Wow

  21. Flake

    My alma mater sends the Jayhawks home, and UK wins a classic, a great day in St Louis, but I’m disappointed to hear that the Stanford band didn’t actually try to smuggle alcohol into the arena, I’m sure they’ll do something inappropriate at the sweet sixteen. Go Cats and go (Stanford) Cardinal.

  22. Casper

    We have to figure out a way for Randle to get
    more assists. He needs a triple double!

  23. musrat59

    That talking head, Seth said we would get schooled by the Shockers. Did he eat any crow.

  24. katfaninyourface

    I agree about Willis. He was NOT pumped when we won. Watch the tape. It kinda bothers me but I know-focus on the big win.

  25. dan

    Well everything else aside I believe Wichita st. Is a hell of a team. I admit I was a little skeptical before the game but those guys where for real. And in true Kentucky fan fashion, since we do enjoy watching great basketball and great basketball teams they deserve their props from BBN.

    Now having said that it’s no time to let up or lose concentration. Ul is next. And five point favorite my hillbilly ass! Any ya ‘ll got a bookie? Time for a bet.

  26. Ridge Runner

    I am so proud of our guys and coach, I can’t begin to put it all in words. Ms T -ya did it better than I ever could, great write up. Go Cats and lets keep this party rollin’!

  27. Trueblue82

    Normally don’t post on here but what a phenomenal article. Very well written. Nice job TT

  28. iucansuckabigblue....

    Awesome game. Awesome article. Well done. The weight of Lexington was crushing our Wildcats. I hope they keep playing loose and playing free. We gotta cut down on the to’s and lock the defense down.

    Once again it’s rivalry week. Let’s smash these lil dirty chickens! Let’s keep dancing. Survive and advance.

    Go Big Blue!!!

  29. Carl

    Excellent recap of season! Very well-written, as always. No way that point-spread holds up for long.

  30. 9

    The good news is we have a great shot at the final four. The bad news is we will likely lose 5 or 6 players to the NBA.

  31. Cutthroat Trout

    I don’t understand how Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports can say that Wichita State “proved themselves”…..they lost yesterday to a 10 loss Kentucky team who isn’t in the top 25….how is that proving themselves?

    1. Ben

      Trying to understand anything that Pat Forde spewed out was your first mistake.

  32. bam


  33. Humphammer

    Guy on The Weather Channel needs to read KSR. He just reported, “UK falls to Wichita State”.

  34. bung

    Purty nice writin’ Ms. T…hats off to Randle leading us in assists…Go Cats!!

  35. Musehobo

    Something that’s not being mentioned by the media right now, but that most Cat fans know, is that WSU should not have had to play UK at this point in the tourney. The other 8 seeds were Gonzaga, Memphis, and Colorado. With the exception of Colorado (who is not good), all of the 8 seeds were decent, but not scary.

    With UK’s RPI at 15, Ken Pom at 17, and BPI at 9, the LEAST we should have been was a 5 seed. Experts Like Lunardi had us floating between a 6 and 7 because of some late-season losses, but NO ONE expected us to be an 8.

    This was a disservice to an undefeated WSU team. Barkley is convinced the committee loaded WSU’s bracket on purpose. While I’m not so sure about the truth of this, I do know WSU had a nearly impossible road to the final four. No way an undefeated team should have had to play a team like UK in their second game.

    1. itstheirowndamnfault

      That the networks lost their mid-major cinderella so early in the tourney. Never should’ve had to play anyone of this caliber this early. Damn right….

  36. Reality

    Pat Forde is jealous of Mrs TT today. She’s a much better sports writer than he is.

  37. Some Guy in Kentucky

    Very good post

  38. Nitpicking

    “(Randle) also had a career-high six assists, a very encouraging stat and one that speaks to how well Kentucky played down the stretch”

    Couldn’t be further from the truth. If I remember correctly, Randle had at least 4 and maybe even 5 of those assists in the first half. His assists are in no way an indicator of how the team played down the stretch. He only had two points in the first half because he was being the most mature, patient player this team has seen since Anthony Davis.

    Sometimes you guys get carried away – overall, I enjoyed the read, but if you want to be taken seriously, you have to be better.

  39. RealCatsFan

    No matter who you root for, that was absolutely one of the best college basketball teams I have ever watched. Proud of these Cats, and hats off to the Shockers – they definitely brought it. It’s a shame one team had to go home.

    Looking forward to the game this Friday. No matter what happens, it is a huge statement that BOTH of our in-state teams are still dancing, while the states of North Carolina and Kansas are no longer represented. And Indiana never even had a team in the tourney! Can you say state supremacy?

  40. Chaz

    Special day, special game, and very special writing. Thanks, MTT. The sun is shining brightly today on the Bluegrass State.

  41. DonnaS

    Got home from St Louis last night and was SO wound up over the game I had a chance to see in person! I have been following KY basketball for a few years since my youngest daughter decided to go to college there. I can honestly say that the game with Witchita yesterday was by far one of the closest, most exciting, best basketball games I have every watched. Found a couple empty seats in the KS block of seats and a friend and I watched the game from there, 7 rows from the floor and 4 feet away from the Witchita block of fans…..OUCH! They all had their mouths running a “mile a minute” and after the game there was this quiet, stunned look from the entire group of fans sitting together – maybe 400 people? If I hadn’t seen it from 4 feet away I would never be able to imagine it !! But the CATS earned their victory and no one could take the joy and excitement away from my friend and I as we yelled for them throughout the game surrounded by Kansas and Wichita fans!! LOVED IT!!