It was a bit of a tedious affair in Rupp Arena yesterday, but the Cats took away an important victory that leaves them 6-2 in conference and on the road to potentially making a splash and heading towards the NCAA Tournament. After the game, I was with the Kentucky Sports Radio crew and away from the Internet, but was reminded while out in Downtown Lexington at midnight that I “hadnt posted anything about the game.” So we are here to remedy that with five tidbits from the post-game festivities….
(1) GILLISPIE MAKING TEAM TENSE: I admit to being fascinated with Coach Clyde’s personality and the various emotions that he brings out during the season. At the beginning of the season, he was often cantankerous with the media and many of the media types wondering aloud if he was the most difficult person to work with in UK history. But then all of a sudden he began to open up and at times, seems almost reflective about himself. Case in point today where the Coach, without prodding, began to question the pregame approach he took with his team.” “I was too hard on them….I made them too tentative. I made too much of the magnitude of the game.” Coach said he thought this game was huge due to the athletes on the team and that it may have been one of the more important games of the season and it caused him to “present to tense a guy” to the rest of the team. The players for their part thought Gillispie did nothing differently and Patrick Patterson noted that, “Coach takes blame for a lot.” Nevertheless at least to me, this seemed like a different type of thing. You could almost see Coach beating himself up over his pre-game tactics and taking responsibility for the way he attempted to prepare the team. Somewhat fascinating to watch….
(2) RETURN OF BRADLEY: After being out for the Auburn game, most of the talk after today’s game was about Smooth’s return to the lineup. Gillispie for his part jokingly said that in the first five minutes of the game it looked as if Ramel had “post-concussion syndrome” with the way he played, but he felt that he then played like a leader for the rest of the contest. Patterson noted that with Ramel on the court, “things are calmer” and the Cats “have a leader to look to down the stretch.” Ramel noted he was glad to be back but also talked about the positive of watching the game against Auburn. “It was cool to be on the sidelines and cheer and root for the guys….I never get to do it and its a lot of fun.” That last sentence says a lot about the kind of guy Ramel has become over his four years here in Lexington.
(3) RAMEL’s BIG SHOT: Much was made after the game about the possession where Patterson took a jump hook late in the shot clock, was blocked, and then the ball kicked out to Bradley, who hit a key 3 pointer to put the Cats up 6…a lead they never relinquished. Gillispie called such a play one that has “a deflating effect” on the defense and Coach Gottfried also noted the momentum changing effect of the shot. For his part, Bradley was classic Smooth, noting that when he got the ball he simply wanted to put up the shot fast and then come down “to make sure I posed for the photographers.” He said that he knew the cameras were on and so while he wasnt “150% Brooklyn” as he said he normally is, he still was “120%” and trying to make a big shot to help the team win.
(4) NCAA TOURNAMENT TIME: To a man, every player on the team said they are not looking ahead to what it takes to make a tournament bid.. I asked all four players brought to the postgame this question (Stevenson, Crawford, Bradley and Patterson) and all said the same thing. All four used the phrase “one game at a time”, as if it were coached into them on how to look at the season. Joe Crawford noted that “if we take it game by game, it will be fine….we can win all the regular season games, go to the conference tournament and win and then everything will be fine.” Ramel Bradley noted that he hadnt even looked at the schedule except he knew that the Cats were headed to Vandy where “I dont like to play.” When asked why, he said it was nothing personal to Nashville but “I wish we could play every game right here at home.”
(5) JERRY TIPTON AND JAY Z: In an interaction bizarre enough that it deserves its own post (which it will get tomorrow), Jerry Tipton and Ramel Bradley had an extremely odd dialogue on Jay Z, which may have been the highlight of the game. Towards the end of the Bradley session, Tipton looked at Bradley and said (in a voice that can only be described as “very, very, VERY white”), “how come you dont do the Jay Z anymore?” At first Ramel looked confused, until someone said that Jerry was referring to his Diamond sign that he gives to the crowd. Ramel mentioned that he didnt do it anymore because he decided that the team needed to not “focus on ourselves” as much as before. He said that the team chemistry was strong and that they break every huddle by saying “Family”, which means less individual and more team. While the answer was great, the interaction on Jay Z between Bradley and Tipton was worthy of its own show (and post) and deserves much more attention tomorrow.
In other news, Ramon Harris is ok and could have played at the end of the game according to the Coach. The 1978 team was there and was honored, which was another real highlight for me. The team who won the championship on the year of my birth was all in attendance and the ovations for Givens, Robey, Lee, Phillips, Macy, etc was tremendous. No place does college basketball history like Kentucky.
More tomorrow on all topics from Jerry Tipton rapping to OH Napier making music videos….it is a great day….