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A Great Night in Rupp Arena

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I feel like I often write the same thing in these posts. I go to a UK game, become immersed in a great atmosphere and then watch the Cats get a big victory that creates great moments that will live in UK basketball lore. That has been the case for Big Blue Madness, North Carolina, UCONN and now the 2000th win against Drexel. Make no mistake, Kentucky played its most complete game of the season tonight in taking down Drexel 88-44. They clicked on offense, got after it on defense and completely dominated a physically overmatched team. However the story of the night had less to do with the game and more with the overall celebration. Tonight was a night about embracing all the greatness that is Kentucky basketball and recognizing the tremendous role it plays to its amazing fanbase.

The former UK legends were there for the occasion. Jamal Mashburn, Kenny Walker, Kyle Macy, Richie Farmer, Mike Pratt and others represented the history of UK basketball in all its forms. Joe B Hall sat courtside and then took the court to celebrate with the team. Adolph Rupp’s son Herky was there to provide a connection to the earliest days of the Big Blue. And Bill Keightley’s family attended, showcasing the thread that has tied so much of the UK basketball legacy together. It was just a great night to be a UK fan and to celebrate the connection of the greatest college basketball program in the nation.

At the last television timeout, I left my seat on the upper press row and came down with the Turkey Hunter to the court. When the final horn went off and the players celebrated, there really was a keen sense of history in the place. As Calipari said so well, this group of players only has had a small part in reaching the milestone. However they represent so well what has been great about Kentucky basketball for all these years. They play with excitement, supreme talent and a will to be the best…traits that have defined the program since its beginning. In John Wall you can see Ralph Beard, in Patrick Patterson Dan Issel, in Demarcus Cousins Melvin Turpin, in Eric Bledsoe Tony Delk, in Daniel Orton Bill Spivey and on down the list. This is a group that understands the uniform they where and how important it is to the people in the seats and watching at home. When John Wall, a guy whose connection to UK is so new and who admittedly came here because of its new coach, can say in the postgame interview that he wanted to win the game for “Mr. Keightley”, a person he never met or knew…well that is what it is all about to me. A great night that I will remember for a long time.

Some quick notes:

— We could break down the play of the game, but suffice to say UK dominated on all ends. The Cats were unstoppable inside and Patrick Patterson and Boogie controlled the glass and the paint throughout. UK also shot the ball extremely well, with two threes from Patterson, two from Liggins and one from Ramon Harris, which prompted the Drexel coach Bruiser Flint to say, “when Ramon Harris hit a three early, I knew we were in trouble.” When the comment was relayed to Calipari later he said, “so did I.”

— It was actually a relatively quiet game for John Wall until his behind the back layup got the Youtube hits going and once again showcased his unbelievable talent. UK led by over 25 with 8 minutes to go even though Wall only had five points. What does that say? They can be scary good. Oh yeah, he then turned it on in the last 8 minutes and had 14 in the half, showcasing that the guy is a freak and you cannot guard him.

— Bruiser Flint said after the game that there was “no comparison” between Kentucky and Villanova, suggesting that the Cats would dominate their pals from Philadelphia. Flint said UK’s size is almost impossible to defend and then mentioned Wall and said, “what are you gonna do?”

— I spoke for a few minutes with Jamal Mashburn before the game and it was a great conversation. He said it was his first game in Rupp since 1999 when his jersey was retired. He spoke with glee about how great it is to see the program “back on the right track” and talked of his admiration for the job done by Calipari. He also said that John Wall has the potential to be “scary good” and that his talent knows no bounds.

— If you didnt read the live blog of the game, check it out. There were some great lines from the combo of Turkey Hunter, Drew Franklin, Beisner and a very witty group of commenters. It was one of the best we have had and the naming of Turkey Hunter’s proposed “UK Alumni Dance Team” had even Kyle Macy, who was sitting two seats down from us, laughing hysterically.

— Finally, I am aware of the small face time given on the postgame celebration. I of course was caught with horrendous hair again (I promise it has been better recently) and Drew Franklin somehow got a screen shot where I look to be crying. All in all, quite a showing for KSR on the national stage. I will also say that I continue to believe Jeanine Edwards looks very good in person…with Clyde out of the way, here is hoping her Kentucky visits are much more pleasureable.

We will have more on win #2000 all day. If you can, take a moment and purchase the Fan Outfitters official t-shirt below. It is a good memento of the occasion and helps KSR in the process. And in closing, enjoy Boogie doing the John Wall:

cuzdance

Article written by Matt Jones