Over the past decade I’ve found that there are just some things you can be certain of. One of those things is that if you go out anywhere or anytime to one of the various bars in Lexington then the song Wagon Wheel is going to play. The other thing I thought I was certain of was that when the Cats met the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the hardwood then the game was going to be great. Over the past ten years its hard to find a better opponent. Florida may have had better teams but we all knew that their hearts weren’t in it. No, it was Mississippi State that no matter how bad their team had been were always up to play the Cats. Here are my favorite moments of the recent rivalry:
The Lane Violation
There are certain games that just stick with you and this is one that I will never forget. I was participating in the time honored tradition in our great state of watching the SEC tournament in the middle of class. Kentucky was about to ice the game when the unthinkable happened. Which came first is unknown but Sheray Thomas stepped away from the line to doom the Cats and a dubious timeout was made. It was the kind of play that breeds a rivalry especially when Miss St. hit a crazy shot and then pulled it out in overtime. The game marked the final one for Tubby Smith in Blue and brought about a disappointing end for our old ball coach.
Call me Maybe
This is the kind of stuff a great rival does. They get the phone number of the most beloved stick of dynamite to ever suit up and harass him with constant phone calls. You feel bad for Cuz but the feelings of rage and wanting to beat a team so bad it brings out are more than worth it. The Cats took the dawg’s best shot and prevailed in overtime. But the game was so good that playing it just once wasn’t enough. The two teams found magic again in the SEC championship.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
Down three, five to go, shooting two. Not many teams could pull off the miracle in Nash-Vegas but somehow Kentucky found a way to make it happen. As soon as the shot went in I leapt through the air like John Wall and ran wall to wall in my apartment with all of my roommates going insane. The ending was unforgettable and the Cats went on to capture the SEC championship in overtime. Mississippi State would miss the NCAA tournament after the loss. Tough break.
Down But Not Out
The biggest lead the Cats had to overcome en route to the national championship was against Miss State and this game just illustrated the resolve that lead them to the crown. Down 13 at the half the Cats stormed back to win by 9. Talk about a monster second half.
With so many great moments in the recent past its a little disappointing to see the Cats favored by 20. Mississippi State will bring just 6 scholarship players to Rupp tomorrow and will almost certainly get destroyed. I’ll be watching with a tinge of regret. The once great rival stepping into the ring to get leveled by the heavyweight champ. But as the games above have shown, you just never know what you’re going to get when the Cats fight the dawgs.