Again, a great effort in Knoxville that should leave all Cat fans immensely proud of their team. The team played with such heart and determination, even though they were outmanned and put in a large hole early. In the second half, I found myself in a position that I am rarely in except during the postseason….standing in front of my television, rocking back and forth, clapping, acting as if I was playing in the game. When I go to games in Rupp or the SEC Tournament, I have to remain objective while on press row. But at home I can scream and by the time Joe’s three pointer rattled in and out, I felt like I had played in the game. Some notes….
— Billy Gillispie was immensely proud after the game and said that while he will always be disappointed in a loss, he was as proud of his players as he could be in a losing effort. He then got choked up and talked about how this team had rallied together since losing Patrick Patterson and said that “tonight you guys got to see what I see every day” in terms of determination and effort. He said that of all the teams he has ever been part of, this one is one of the most special because of that effort and desire. He said that at the beginning of the year, it took the guys some time “to get me”, but now he thinks this is a family unlike any other. Great comments from the coach today.
— There are so many great performances to go around, but a special shout to Perry Stevenson. Yes he scored 14 points, but he also got a number of rebounds (double-double) and played the best position defense I have seen him play at Kentucky. Stevenson’s length makes the team so much more dangerous down low and he is finally finishing around the basket. Add to that the fact that he is now MONEY from the free throw line, and Perry’s improvement has been the best development we have seen this year.
— The best performance of the year tonight for Razor Ramon. He has always played good defense, but tonight he scored in double digits, hit the glass and looked AGGRESSIVE offensively, which was awesome to see. When he can take the ball to the basket, his length causes separation, and tonight he finished on 3 of his 4 drives. Add to that a three pointer, a number of defensive deflections and a big steal, and it was a red-letter day for Ramon.
— And we cant go far without mentioning Derrick Jasper. 10 points 8 rebounds 8 assists….nearly a triple double. The kid has made as big a difference as one could possibly imagine for this team and he has stepped his game up immensely by being able to hit the open three pointer. With Jasper on the court, the team plays smarter, more efficient and more precise….all traits that it often severely lacks without him. Best game of the year for Derrick, whose best days are still ahead.
— When we look back on this game, we should not only remember that Kentucky played well without Patterson, but also had to be without Joe Crawford due to foul trouble….which brings me to Ramel Bradley. Ramel had a very good night, and was an amazing leader on the floor. I love Ramel as a player and I especially love his determination. Bruce Pearl praised Ramel after the game and is reported to have said (according to TCP) that Bradley showed today why “Kentucky wanted him over Lofton.” Not a slap at all to Chris (who is amazing), but a huge praise to Smooth.
— Stevenson needs to start at the beginning of games….love you Mark, but its time.
— Another 15 second performance by Jared Carter who was slow on the rotation and picked up a foul and a three point play. Wonder if he was the recipient of the Gillispie comment that everyone played well in the game “except one person.” The Turkey Hunter wrote at one point and said that for those 15 seconds, he would rather have a “ladder check into the game with a black cat underneath it.”
— Bad calls on both halves of the floor by possibly the worst SEC season of officiating I have seen. The foul on Ramel at the end of the first half and Joe’s 3rd and 4th fouls were absurd. However the referees also missed a number of traveling calls on Kentucky, one by Ramel and two by Perry. Still, the officiating is awful and inconsistent and seriously needs to be looked at after the season.
— Huge kudos to Billy Clyde for his gameplan. He controlled the tempo throughout and forced Tennessee to play his game. Working the ball until the end of the shot clock dictated the pace, and the daggers throw in by UK hurt morale. Expert coaching job by the Dr. Pepper fan.
— I love a Bill Rafftery called game any day of the week….”onions”….”send it in”….”man-to-man”….”big fella”…..great stuff
— Huge credit to Joe C on that last shot….got his body straight and it nearly went down….I wanted this so bad for those guys, but if the Cats make the tournament, this is one to remember. Maybe the most inspiring regular season loss I can remember in some time.