If you were a Kentucky fan today, the prospects of winning today’s game continued to get lower as the day progressed. Going into the game, it looked as if Kentucky would have its full compliment of players and a 10-12 point victory seemed probable. Then we find out Jodie Meeks will be out….not great news, but the Cats can get over it. Then Ramel Bradley gets nailed and takes a horrific fall, knocking him a bit loopy. OK, now it looks bad. Then Joe C’s foot hits its breaking point and he limps through part of the second half before having to take himself out of the game. At that point, with 8 minutes to go, it was hard to forsee a way Kentucky could win. The lineup was Porter, Jasper, Harris, Stevenson and Patterson and Patrick was struggling a bit against Dave Bliss. But then a light came on….Patrick took over on the low block, Harris hit a couple of big buckets, the defensive became lock-down great and all of a sudden the clock got lower and lower and the Cats were able to pull out an extremely gutsy victory.
Say what you will about individual players on this team, but as a group, their ability to win tonight was something special. The defense was top notch (except for a short period midway through the second half) and the shots Georgia did hit were often acrobatic and contested. When Ramel went down, it was easy to assume that the game was over and that the Cats were cursed. And then when Joe C went hobbling off the court, I got a host of text messages assuming the season was a loss. But guys stepped up and got (to use the phrase that is endlessly repeated about big white guys like Bliss), the most out of their talents and brought home a victory. This one wont win any awards for beauty…but it is still one of my favorites. Some notes….
— Ramel Bradley suffered a concussion thanks to the hard hit from Dave Bliss (which wasnt malicious but should have been an intentional foul). The way Bradley fell was extremely awkward and he literally hit the floor chin first. He knocked himself out slightly, in addition to the cut on his chin. There is no word yet on what his prognosis is going this week, but he was already down with the flu a bit, so it is very likely that Ramel will be glad to forget his trip to Athens.
— Even when things have been tough this year, I have always taken up for Joe Crawford. Like Tayshaun Prince before him, people often confuse his facial expressions (which often seem bored and uninterested) with his actual feelings and assume Crawford doesnt care. The guy loves to win and while he often does things that make you scratch your head, there is no one who can earn a basket in a tough, physical game like tonight quite as well as Joe Crawford. The sight of him limping down the court in the second half is destined to be iconic and could be what Joe is remembered for during his UK career. And you have to love the fact that he checked back in, knocked down a CRUCIAL three with the Cats down one, before having to be taken out for good. That shot may have saved UK’s tournament hopes and should not be forgotten.
— I am so ready for Sunyiata Gaines and Dave Bliss to graduate after their eight years on campus. Both guys always play well against Kentucky and both have had careers that are reaching Jess Settles length. I love the way Gaines takes the ball to the basket and even though I dont like watching Bliss, I respect the way he plays. He even had his way for a bit with Patrick Patterson. These games will be much better for the Cats when these guys are gone. And oh yeah….Chris Barnes didnt exactly light it up….
— I feel like I could write the same thing every game about Patrick Patterson and it would be true. No one works harder….no one is tougher….no one is more skilled….he simply has the whole package. His alley oop catches and dunks were great, but what I liked was the way he altered his play a bit when Dave Bliss had some success. Bliss played him very physically and after taking a couple of bumps, he went directly at him…and used his quickness to get to the basket. Add to that the GREAT pass to Razor Ramon for the key layup at the end and it was another top-notch performance for P-Pat.
— Finally some props to two guys who have had their fair share of criticism this year. I have always loved Razor Ramon Harris but his offensive liabilities have led to some hand-wringing by fans this season. But tonight was a great night for him. Not only did he again play top-shelf defense (the best on the ball defender UK has and a great help defender as well) and make Billy Humphrey’s life tough, he also found a way to put in 9 points, including a couple of nice bank shots. A great game for the Razor, whose confidence continues to improve. And also a shout should go out to Michael Porter as well. No one has taken more criticism than Porter and a lot has come from me. But pressed into duty tonight, he responded with good defense, calm ball-handling and a solid overall game. Porter deserved a good game after his tough start to the year and he was an intregal part of the win today.
Just a huge victory in Athens. 4-2 in conference and right there in the race…..great day for the Cats