It was another solid day in Rupp Arena as the Cats generally played well, faced some adversity, but then found a way to take down the Gamecocks 78-70. Throughout the game it was clear that this team is becoming much crisper on offense and is starting to find its rhythm, by having the best players play they are most comfortable playing and finding roles for secondary players to find a way to contribute. The “event” status of the game was in full effect, as the Cats had a number of non-basketball moments that made the crowd stand on its feet. The 2007 UK football team was honored prior to the game to a standing ovation. At halftime, the 1948 Kentucky National Championship and Olympic Gold Medal winning team was honored in a ceremony that was one of the cooler moments that I have seen in the arena. If you love the history of this program as I do, seeing that team honored, with many of the former players and family members in attendance was great. All in all a good day at Rupp. Here are some notes from the post-game….
— A great performance from Ramel Bradley who got the second double-double of his career with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
— The Cats once again did the things necessary to get the victory…that means performing in the clutch and making free throws. Down 61-60 with seven minutes to go, the Cats went on a 12=1 run to take control of the game. In addition, the Cats continued their free throw domination of the SEC by hitting 18-23 free throws.
— Wanna know how important three point shooting has become to college basketball? The Cats were up 5 at halftime….four minutes later the Cocks had hit 4 three pointers and were up 7. Four shots and the game changed….that is the new college basketball.
— Wanna know what Rupp Arena can do to an opponent? With the Cats up 7 at the end and South Carolina required to score, Dave Odom was trying to scream a play to his players, but the crowd was so loud they couldnt hear it. The team ran around with only a couple of players knowing the play, got off a bad shot….and the game was over.
BILLY GILLISPIE NOTES
— Gillispie called the UK victory “a great win against a tough team” and said that he was most pleased with the way the Cats bounced back from adversity. Gillispie said he knew that South Carolina would run the shot clock down to 5 or 6 seconds and then hit a tough 3 and that “the most important thing is for us not to hang our head” when that happened. He said he was impressed with the way they did that and the fact the team kept their composure.
— Gillispie was full of praise for Ramel Bradley. “He has been fantastic. I love the way this team is handling things down the stretch and he is the main reason.” Gillispie said his uptick in leadership is the #1 reason this team has been playing better.
— Gillispie spoke of the “change of mindset” in Perry Stevenson, saying that he was once a guy who liked to sleep all the time and was not fully into the team. Now he “is getting to the gym earlier and is much more intense. He has no idea just how good he can be.”
— Gillispie also made clear that he knows why the Cats look substantially better than before. “Lets not kid ourselves….having Jodie and Derrick back makes all the big difference.” He called Derrick Jasper, “one of the toughest guys I have been around in my coaching career.”
— Finally, Gillispie was upset at Bradley for the behind the back pass on the break, but not for the reason you may think. He said that the defender had three fouls, and knowing that situation, Bradley should have tried to draw the fourth. But Coach isnt against behind the back passes, saying that he made many during his day. After someone called him “old school”, Gillispie retorted that Bob Cousy was old school but invented that pass and that during his playing days, he would make those passes often and he would “send you some tapes” if you dont believe it.
GILLISPIE THE SOOTHSAYER: All the players mentioned that they were amazed at how well Gillispie predicted the flow of the game. With the Cats up 5 at half, Gillispie told them that South Carolina would make a run and “likely get up 8 or so” (Bradley’s words). Of course that then happened in the second half, causing Ramel Bradley to say, “I have come to realize that Coach is always right.”
PERRY STEVENSON: Stevenson was his usual self after the game with his dry humor. He said that he is trying to get more aggressive and become a better scorer. When told of Coach Gillispie’s praise of him in the press conference, he smiled and said “everything he said is true.” He said the game is becoming more fun for him and that “I am getting comfortable and that is all you can ask.”
PATRICK PATTERSON: Patterson said that the team knew that if they focused the whole game they could pull it out. “Coach told us they would hit crazy shots and they did….we just had to not get down.” He said that Coach gave them a “good rippin” at one point but that the team “trusts in Ramel” and was ready to win down the stretch.
RAMEL BRADLEY: Ramel spent most of his time talking about the “horrible decision” he made on the pass on the fast break. But he also mentioned that he is becoming very confident at the end of games. “I am really confident that at the end, I can make the final shot. It prepares me to hit the shot in practice and I am ready in games.” He said that he was excited to guard Zam Frederick after Zam had hit a couple of threes in the second half. “The best way to guard a player is to not let him get the ball and thats what I did.” He said he was ready at the end of the game because “I get tired but I am conditioned to say, ‘ok you’re tired, so what!” He credits boot camp for that mentality.
ODOM ON THE CATS: Coach Odom expressed his respect for Kentucky basketball and the tradition associated with it and said he was honored with the pre-game ceremony in which he was given a commemorative Kentucky visitor’s chair. As for the game he said this about the players:
ON Patterson: “I have seen a lot of Freshman big men here at Kentucky. None are better than Patrick Patterson as a Freshman.”
On Bradley: “When the game is on the line, he is as good as there is.”
So that is the report from Rupp. We will have more later. A great day and one in which I got to meet one of the names I would hear from my grandfather in my youth, Harlan’s own Wah Wah Jones. Cant get much better than that…..