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We’re not dead yet.

Photo by James Crisp, AP

This team may be young and flawed, but for forty minutes, they found the one thing they’d been missing all season: heart. As the buzzer sounded to seal Kentucky’s 61-57 win over Florida, the players gathered at midcourt to celebrate, the looks on their faces as happy and thrilled as those on the fans in the stands. This group may not make it to a Final Four or defend UK’s title, but for those brief euphoric moments after the horn, it didn’t matter. They had beaten one of the best teams in the nation, and in the process, buoyed their postseason chances and thanks to Ole Miss’ win over LSU, clinched the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament.

After Thursday night, things couldn’t have looked worse for Kentucky. The loss to Georgia was an anchor dragging them to postseason irrelevance. But, with seven minutes left and the postseason on the line, they “swam like heck” and lived to see another day. Let’s break it down with quotes from Cal and the players.

“I’m forgetting he has four.”

I have to start with Willie Cauley-Stein, who finished with six points, eight rebounds and four bocked shots. Most importantly, Willie channeled the spirit of Nerlens Noel, playing the last eleven minutes of the second half with four fouls. It became very clear that without Willie, the Cats would not win. When he went to the bench at the thirteen minute mark, Patrick Young dominated the inside and Florida went on a 10-0 run. Once Willie came back in with 11 minutes left (an unbelievable risky move), they only scored 11 points the rest of the game. With Willie as the anchor, Kentucky showed off their most impressive defense of the season, holding Florida to 0-11 from the field and five turnovers over the final 7:35. Cal gushed about it in his postgame remarks: “That team we had out that last seven minutes, every one of them guarded. They just locked down, rebounded, went and got balls, made a couple shots to get it close, came out of timeouts, did some stuff, listened.”

When asked about the decision to bring Willie back in, Cal said he chose to forget that Willie had four fouls because the Cats needed him that much.


“Get me the ball”

As he has done so many times before, Julius Mays stepped up when the team needed him the most. Before his last game in Rupp, Mays said he was going to leave it all on the floor, and he did. Mays scored 13 points off 4-10 shooting from the floor, which may not seem flashy, but he was the steady hand the Cats needed. Before the game, Cal asked each player to write down two things they could do to help the team win today. Julius’ two? “I will lead this team and hold everyone accountable for their mistakes” and “I will score 12-14 points.” Done and done. Julius laid into both Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin at times during the game for poor play, and with 9.4 seconds left in the game, came up to Cal during the timeout and said “Get me the ball.” He did, and Julius delivered with two crucial free throws to ice the game. Could there a be a more fitting (or cruel) goodbye?

Archie the Fighter

As he did vs. Georgia, Archie Goodwin refused to give up, taking the game into his own hands when the offense went stagnant and drawing fouls. Archie led the team in scoring with 16 points, his sixth game in a row in double figures. After the Georgia loss, Archie called out his teammates for a lack of effort and challenged them to play harder. Archie is first and foremost a fighter, and while his game is still very rough around the edges, he provides a spark when things get stagnant. Archie’s steal with five minutes left (one of four for him in the game) was crucial in Kentucky’s comeback, and love him or hate him, he propels this team forward.

“Alex grew up.”

No player was more criticized coming into this game than Alex Poythress. Poythress was called out by his teammates for a lack of effort, and yesterday, he told reporters that he knew he hadn’t played hard enough all year and challenged himself to change. Alex finished with nine points and twelve rebounds. How crucial is Alex to this team’s success? Kentucky is 5-0 when Poythress gets at least nine rebounds. Calipari said Alex “grew up” today and that for the first time, he asked to come back in after a bad series: “There was one spell that he gave up. He’s done that throughout the year. …Took him out. His teammates got all over him. And he said, Put me back in. He grew up today because he went back in and finished those last seven minutes and was a beast.”

Basically, Alex had a “Man in the Mirror” moment: “I just looked myself in the mirror and realized I could’ve been better this whole year, could’ve been better in some areas. It’s time to grow up. ”

You gotta look at yourself and then make the chaaaaange…

“If Ryan plays the way he’s capable of playing, we’re pretty good.”

Cool Ryan was not in the house today. Ryan Harrow shook off a bad run of games and put up thirteen points, two assists and only one turnover. Even better, he operated the offense with confidence, driving the lane and creating opportunities for others. After the game, Cal said that when Ryan plays like that, the Cats are hard to beat.

Photo by @JonathanPalmer

“I haven’t seen anything like that crowd.”

The crowd…oh, the crowd. In Cal’s words, the crowd was “unbelievable.” Last night, Cal said that he wanted to find some way to give the Cats an edge today, and knew that that the crowd could “take us over the hump.” He took to Twitter and challenged everyone in the arena to stand and cheer for the last eight minutes of the game, a very tall task for the lower arena’s elderly. But, Blue Hair showed it cared by answering Cal’s cal and standing from eight minutes til the buzzer sounded, which resulted in the most electric atmosphere Rupp has ever seen. The crowd at the Missouri game was great, but today’s crowd was unbelievable. Cal said it’s the best he’s ever seen in Rupp: “That building was unbelievable. That was as loud as we’ve been in four years. The great thing is the crowd knows this team is so young that they really need them.” Archie Goodwin agreed, saying he had never seen anything like it.

The amount of love flowing between the players and the crowd was chilling today. It’s a true testament to the Big Blue Nation that when things were as bad as they were on Thursday, that the fans not only didn’t give up on the team, but they that they turned around and gave them what they needed to stay alive. I still have goosebumps.

(I don’t want to ruin this recap with negativity, so I’m just going to leave it here in these parentheses. For all the good things that happened on the court today, Kyle Wiltjer was still MIA, going 0-7 from the field. Cal knows: “It’s hard to leave him in the game if they’re scoring on him every time.” Okay, enough of that.)

“It’s time!”

Cal was fired up during the postgame radio show, mentioning the second-guessing from the fans and media about his coaching methods this week: “‘You gotta be nicer, it’s late in the season…FORGET IT! It’s late in the season, it’s TIME! It’s time right now, let’s hold them accountable, I’m not trying to be anyone’s friend, let’s go for it.”

I’m in. See you in Nashville. BE7hZdCCYAEAbLX

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

60 Comments for We’re not dead yet.

  1. Wow
    4:23 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Your articles are always excellent Tyler! Great take on the heart and spirit of today’s game.

  2. Roland
    4:26 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    It is just ONE game, but when Willie came back into the game
    with 4 fouls,

    HE was an ALL American PLAYER.

  3. LansingCat
    4:31 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Sooo jealous I wasn’t in Rupp today. I don’t live close enough and can’t afford but one game a year (a promise I’ve made to myself.) Haven’t been to Rupp at all this season, haven’t been since UNC last year, and was very close to coming there today. I have friends in Nashville, and it will make the trip cheaper for me. So proud of our team today, and especially the fans. Thank you to all who stood, cheered, and willed this win over the last eight minutes. I even had some damn tears come down my cheeks. Damn it feels good to be a CAT today!

  4. C-A-T-S
    4:32 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Today shows how good these cats are when they play together. You just never know who will show up. I’m glad the real UK team showed up today. What a great game. Hopefully these cats continue to show up. Seems like they do when BBN gets behind them. Lets pack Nashville!!!!! GO CATS!!!!!!

  5. Cawood2Cal
    4:35 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    The crowd was “as loud as we’ve been in four years”. Great! The crowd was a top 7 or 8 of all-time. Your statement, Tyler, “the most electric atmosphere Rupp has ever seen”, goes too far. I was there in 1990 when Pitino’s Bombimos beat LSU – Shaq, Chris Jackson and Dale Brown. That still is the “the most electric atmosphere Rupp has ever seen”. Jus sayin, good buddy. Love your posts, Tyler. GREAT WIN, TODAY!

  6. Jpo
    4:35 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Great article!

  7. Cawood2Cal
    4:36 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    * Bombinos .. several beers

  8. Jpo
    4:36 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    5. Also I was at the Florida 2003 game and I almost went deaf!

  9. jq
    4:49 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    With a stroke of LUCK maybe HARROW will not come back to UK next year!

  10. Roland
    4:54 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Heads up to the earthquake seismic recording center.
    Turn off the Nashville sensors next weekend.
    Its just the BBN.

  11. Ridge Runner
    4:54 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    1, yes sir & I can’t get enough reading in today about our Cats. Great lingering victory in so many ways.

  12. ksu
    4:55 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    harrow stinks. jarrod should play the whole game.

  13. Jpo
    4:57 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    9&12. Same person

  14. You Got It
    4:59 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    #13-You are correct. This poster is exposed as a Moron!

  15. Roland
    5:00 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    So what are you going to do BBN?

    gonna whine like many here or Rock Nashville with your ROAR!

  16. Michael
    5:02 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I am so proud of how Uk “as a team” played today. That is what the fans want to see. If you give it all your heart and play with passion, fans will love this team regardless if they win or lose. But, if they play this way, this team is going to win more games. I just wanted to say “thank you” to all the players for playing with “heart and passion” and representing UK and the BBN!!!!! A big “thank you” to Coach Cal for not giving up on this team!!!

  17. Let's ROAR
    5:04 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Let’s ROAR #15!!!

  18. ksu
    5:05 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    #13,#14…..nope. he he, harrow stinks

  19. So Do You
    5:06 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    #18-You Sir, are a Moron.

  20. T I T S
    5:07 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I love tits and the cats!!

  21. ksu
    5:07 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    He, He. That is folks laughing at me and how pathetic I am.

  22. ksu
    5:08 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Uh, where did I put my drink?

  23. C-A-T-S
    5:09 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    We are going to have Nashville rockin!!!!!! GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!!!

  24. ksu
    5:11 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    he he he. harrow stinkssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss. jarrod should play the whole gameeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  25. Ridge Runner
    5:12 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I got this thing figured out.

    OK..if UT wins I mean loses and Alabama falls short, then Ole Miss would lose and…………ahhh the hell wit it.

  26. Jon Lock
    5:13 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Over the last few games, I have grown to love Archie, despite his boneheaded plays. I realized that there is no one on this team that wants to win more than he does, except for Uncle Julius. So when he sees his teammates struggling to find any rhythm to put the ball in the basket, he decides to take over. If you notice, when other players are hitting shots, he is a little more willing to pass. He still will take some not-so-smart shots, but that is just over-confidence.

    I am also so happy with the rest of the team for playing with passion today, and hope that it finally sticks. If it does, we are gonna shock a few teams in the tourney. GO BIG BLUE!!!

    And ignore the trolls.

  27. Duke sucks
    5:13 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    8) I was at the game when Pitino first came back to Rupp. I don’t think today’s crowd was any where near that game or the one you where at it was loud too! Every body talks about Dukes crowd and others, but no body is better the Rupp when it’s rocking! Just wish it was more consistent but when your #1 all-time it’s hard to get up for every game.
    Dukes Gym is about as big as a high school’s. The dean Dome is way over rated with the chosen frozen taking most of the seats. Indiana fans, well they are IU fans nothing more needs to be said. They just act like idiots. UL doesn’t have enough fans to fill up their gym. It’s a commuter school with commuter fans all what 147 of them!.

  28. Roland
    5:13 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    The players need our support. This win 2day is a prime example.
    I apologize for pointing out the Obvious.

  29. 100%
    5:13 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    16) well said my friend. So proud of those guys. Every single one of them!

  30. Ridge Runner
    5:15 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I know it’s natural to compare crowds like anything else, but dam lets just agree this crowd was awesome and contributed to this win unlike many crowds we have had. I thank Coach and in a way, our poor effort gave this crowd something to do in order to help this struggling team.

  31. Blue
    5:15 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I love T I T S too!

  32. ksu
    5:16 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    i forgot, hawkins is better right? your talking cliff hawkins right

  33. Stan
    5:18 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Good one #25. LMAO!!

  34. Kristen Geil's Abs
    5:19 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Who cares if one crowd was 0.5dB louder than another. I’m just happy for the players. That was some young kids playing against guys 2-3 years older, and they played their asses off and made it work. I’m so happy I’m going to do some sit-ups.

  35. shawnpants
    5:21 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    i love it. where are all the ‘supposed UK fans’ now who in all actuality are haters saying we “have no heart” and how this team “disgusts them”??

  36. What IF
    5:25 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    26)If Archie and Alex could trade mind sets UK would be unbeatable. Archie tries to hard and makes boneheaded plays. Alex is to passive and let’s plays pass him bye. If Archie could just calm down like Lamb did last year he could take games over. If Alex would just cut lose and stop thinking he could dominate.
    Either way that’s our team and I’ll support them. I do think they care and are trying they just can’t get things together. It’s not like BCG last year where I think the team gave up. These guys just where 1 player away this year. If we could have got Bennett this team would be top 5. If Shabazz would have came it might have relaxed Archie to where he didn’t think he needed to take over.
    Any way let the chips fall where they may and get ready to make a great run next year. I just wish we could have done something for Nerlens today. Great kid gave all he had in his time here!

  37. Anybody have 5?
    5:25 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Is that Jon Bon Jovi in that limo?

  38. Mike
    5:25 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    If I had a vote, the only players I would really want to see come back are Harrow and WCS…if Wusstjer hasn’t gotten it by now, he probably won’t, and he has been a liability when he has been on floor for last 4 or 5 games.

  39. 100%
    5:28 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    What impressed me was coming off a bad loss Thursday,and only having one day to prepare for florida. Being able to fight back and win this game coming off a bad loss shows a lot of maturity.

  40. Music
    5:30 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Bon Jovi!!!!!!!

  41. Mike
    5:50 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    #38 If I had a vote, we’d make babies with Wusstjer and raise them in our basement home. We’d feed them whoppers and apple pies and all that delicious stuff that I steal from work an carry into my basement freak dungeon like a skanky Gollum. Breathe in the air of my stupidity!

  42. buzzard
    5:52 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    What a GREAT victory!!! Now THAT’S how grown Men play basketball! Way to go CATS! My neighbor was at the game and said that’s the loudest he’s ever heard Rupp. The Kentucky effect indeed!!!

  43. mudcreekmark
    6:06 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Well, Tennessee beat Missouri. That hurts both ways. Hurts the quality of our win against Missouri plus I think this puts Tennessee in front of us as far as a bid is concerned.

  44. Late to the game
    6:08 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Hey! Does anybody know where I can rewatch the game?? I was working and couldn’t ******* watch it!

  45. Good Lord
    6:10 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    You people are pitiful. Here we go with all the make a run statements and blah blah blah. The Gators are as bad on the road as the Cats are.

    You morons that are getting your hopes up are gonna jump off buildings when the season ends.

  46. mudcreekmark
    6:15 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    45) We still looked awful today, just a little less awful than Florida did. We shot less than 40% from the field, less than 30% from three and barely made 50% of our free throws. We still are on the outside looking in. We still don’t have enough quality wins to make the tourney in my opinion. Who have we beat? Who have we lost to? We have some really bad loses and only 2 quality wins and they were both at home.

  47. DrPatKY
    6:16 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Like #44 I was not able to watch today. Anybody know if the game will be replayed anywhere?

  48. Jpo
    6:21 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    27. Great points and I totally agree

  49. ksu
    6:32 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    My education includes almost passing the third grade. He He…

  50. Fairweather Fans
    6:34 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    The change in attitude towards this team from yesterday to today is disgusting. If you bandwagon pieces of shit aren’t gonna support them when they struggle then stay the hell out and quit calling yourself a “fan” just when they are winning! Everyone was pumped up like this after the Missouri game too and then most of the people had quit on this team and were just waiting for next year after the Ark and UGA losses. They are gonna need the REAL fans in Nashville. Not the ones who try to slit their throats at the first sign of trouble.

  51. lexCATfan
    6:38 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    TT, the 2003 game against FL was much louder, and i would argue that the UNC game from that year with Mr. Prince hitting threes from all over the place was much better, so talk about something u know about

  52. HOO
    6:42 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    It took PayPal Cal telling BBN to stand up instead of them doing it on their own. Your fan base and team have nothing on Hoosier nation and the Hoosiers. Sit down little brother and enjoy the NIT.

  53. HOO
    6:43 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Don’t try to delete this either, Rat Face

  54. jojo
    6:47 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    50) agree100% its the comments this week have been disgusting!

  55. jojo
    6:50 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    52) go lick tom creans candy cane and smoke your crack pipe.

  56. Chicago Chris
    6:54 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I would like to thank the Cats for giving me the MOST JOY this season. I can’t always watch the games live with two little boys but this time I was able to get them to time their naps, grab a bottle of beer and play the game and really enjoy it. It felt like last year for just a little bit.

  57. Chicago Chris
    6:59 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Also, as rough as this team has been, I’d put $1000k that they beat the likes of Belmont, St. Marys, Witchita St., and Boise St 9 out of 10 games. Those teams are supposedly in. Gimme a frickin BREAK.

  58. HOO
    7:02 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    I am a very sad person.

  59. Brent
    7:04 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    52 dont u have a loss to go celebrate?

  60. Laker Cat 18
    7:22 pm March 9, 2013 Permalink

    Proud of the team for their fight today. Keep it up and we can make a run. Drop back to where we’ve been and we’re done. Fresh slate, everyone is 0-0. Win or go home.