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A Heck of a Weekend

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Now that we have Saturday completed, it is time to acknowledge something out loud. The last 18 months of UK Athletics since the National Championship have pretty much sucked. There have been a couple of random highlights…the hiring of Mark Stoops was exciting, the huge crowd at the Spring Game was unique and beating Missouri for College Gameday had Rupp Arena rocking. But when we make highlight films for intro videos of UK Athletics’ events over the next few years, very little from June 2012-December 27, 2013 is going to find its way in the package. The end of the Joker era, the rebuilding process in football and the NIT year that we all hope to forget, spliced in with the “Year of the Cardinal,” made these 18 months painful for any Big Blue Nation member. Something needed to get us out of the funk and back to the more joyous rocking times around Lexington.

Then Saturday happened. Saturday was the type of day that makes being a Kentucky fan great. From the earliest moments, Rupp Arena had that special ambiance that happens when magic memories are on the horizon. Our KSR Pregame Show began three hours before tipoff in the Rupp Arena Food Court and from the very opening lines, the place was packed. A buzz permeated the building as we previewed UK/UL, with greats like Jack Givens, Kenny Walker, James Lee and Kyle Macy milling between Arby’s and Mr. Kang’s Chinese Food. If you have been fortunate enough to attend a number of games at Rupp Arena, you know when the place is going to be rocking, and as I walked onto the court a hour before the game, it was clear this was one of those special days. Every seat in the arena was filled 30 minutes before the start. Fans stood and watched the pregame activities with anticipation…they erupted every time the Cats ran out on the court and the building stayed energetic, even when nothign was taking place. The student section taunted the UL players with every missed shot during warmups and Rick Pitino received a hearty booing the moment he appeared through the tunnel. As every second ticked towards tipoff, the arena grew louder and it culminated in one of the best videos I have seen the UK folks ever do, a pre-game series of images from great wins over Louisville in the past from Rex to Cedric to Mash to Derek Anderson to Patrick Sparks to Jorts to Davis, culminating in a “what will be the next one?” question that caused the roof to nearly blow off the place. For all the complaints about the in-arena environment, the pre-game scene on Saturday was magical and exactly why we all love cheering on the Cats.

Once the game started, the excitement quickly switched over into nervousness. Louisville’s 8-0 run to start the game led many (myself included) to wonder if we were headed for another disappointing day, this time on our home court to our hated rival. But then slowly, things changed. The way Julius Randle played in the first half showcased why he is a projected Top Three pick. He was simply unguardable and he made a mockery out of every defender Louisville sent his way. Whether it was Harrell, Behanan, Mango, “Indefinitely Suspended” Akoy or (hilariously) Luke Hancock, Randle bullied them all, even as they desperately hung on his arms at every move. After the game Pitino said that no one in America was helped more by the new rules than Julius Randle, implying that he gets calls he does not deserve. The truth is actually in the other direction, as up close it is clear that Randle is fouled on nearly every drive to the basket and gets only a small percentage of the whistles. But the fact that he fights through the contact and can finish with such a soft touch is amazingly impressive. He is a beast and with every basket he made in that late first half run, the Rupp crowd clearly grew more confident, sensing a special performance was taking place.

Russ Smith’s dunk notwithstanding (that was mighty impressive), the first half went about as well as Kentucky fan could have imagined. But the second half followed the lead of the first, as UK began with a thud. Louisville scored quickly and Julius Randle pulled up with cramps, immediately changing Rupp Arena’s mood. As Randle passed me on the sidelines on his way to the locker room, I was hard pressed to think of a way Kentucky could win the game. Not only had Kentucky not finished games well all season, but the Cats had lost the best player on the floor, one who was having a dominant game. During the first timeout, while I was in the back trying to get information, I told Tom Leach and Mike Pratt that this was the time for the Twins and James Young to make names for themselves. Pratt agreed, and added that Alex Poythress would have to fill in Randle’s void as much as possible. And over the next 15 minutes of game play, that is what they all did. While not playing perfect (and missing WAYYYYYY too many free throws), the guards got to the basket, finished with authority and played admirable defense, to extend Kentucky’s lead and keep a cushion over the slumping Cards. Throughout that time frame, as fans in the stands wondered if Randle would return, Rupp Arena urged on UK with a passion that gave me chills. I looked up at one point, with six minutes to go and Kentucky clinging to a seven point lead and thought, “this is one of those games everyone here will remember.” Those brutal missed free throws caused the last six minutes to seemingly take 5 hours, but as the final seconds ticked down, Pitino grew angrier with the officials and the UK bench jumped with jubilation, it felt like an almost perfect night.

We all know that this team still has many questions to answer and it isn’t yet clear that they are capable of giving us #9. But for one night, they gave us the joy we have been waiting 18 months to recapture. Everyone on the court from the Twins to James Young to Alex Poythress to Willie Cauley-Stein to Dominique Hawkins played important roles and each of them stepped up to make big plays. After a week of listening to media members suggest that this could be the game that proved Pitino’s system was better than Calipari’s, the reality is that Calipari outcoached Pitino. Rick made no adjustments capable of getting his big men involved (especially when Randle went out) and was unable to take advantage as his guards looked perplexed when Cauley-Stein would switch on the pick and roll (simple scouting Rick…UK did it against Belmont and Boise). Calipari meanwhile allowed his perimeter players to revert back to their high school days, spacing the floor and getting to the basket, and had they made free throws, it could have been a double digit margin game. For a team coming off a national title, #1 in Kenpom.com efficiency and with boatloads of experience, to lose as they did, either the UK team is just better or Calipari got the better of Rick…you can choose which is the case.

Either way, the scene at Rupp after the game was special. As nearly the entire crowd hung on to watch, “My Old Kentucky Home” was sung and fans celebrated in the aisles. It was a reminder of how great games like this can be, even if you are like me, packing back and forth on the carpet. The Cats were joyous on the court and in the locker room and each seemed happy to give their fans this moment. After 18 months of difficulty, it felt like this grind-it-out win was a sign of the tide turning. Who knows what the rest of the season will bring, but Saturday suggests that good times are ahead. And when we look back upon them, and videos for future UK-UL games are created, Alex Poythress’s dagger dunk will be included and we can all remember a victory that was oh so sweet.

I am back to radio tomorrow from 10-noon…and I would suggest to you it is going to be much fun. Until then…

Article written by Matt Jones

61 Comments for A Heck of a Weekend



  1. Jimmy Dinklewinker
    11:03 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, you are are really good writer in spite of how you view yourself! Well done.



  2. SeoulCat
    11:09 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Hello, Mr. I.
    Just waking up, are we?



    • Woody
      11:14 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

      Someone is proud and happy to be awake



    • catdaddyd
      12:00 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      how did the acapella group (acoustic cats) get such good tickets?



  3. mocha
    11:09 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Today is Sunday, but given the whirlwind of a weekend we just had, I’ll forgive you.
    Well said.



  4. El Pres
    11:26 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Looks like the guy 2nd from the left was really excited about the Cats victory over the cards



  5. [email protected]
    11:27 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Rick Pitino’s record vs UK is now 5-10. Against Cal he is 1-5. If you look at the last 12 games, Pitino is 3-9. 2 of the wins came against (you guessed it) Billy G. You can see why Pitino is so frustrated. This is the one school that he cannot dominate.



    • EC
      5:47 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Fiftino had this grand delusion that he could knock UK off it’s throne and make the Dirty Birds the #1 program in this state. Didn’t quite work out.



  6. lol
    11:31 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    i used to listen when there was a podcast



  7. Barbara
    11:40 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Need to contact someone at KSR with information about a former UK basketball player, All American, record holder. Can someone please contact me, or tell me how to contact Matt or one of the writers. Please, this is important information and a question.



  8. Catcounsel
    11:42 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Great post Matt on a truly memorable game for Big Blue Nation to never forget! So appropriate for Kentucky’s first win against a ranked team to come against Loserville this season. The best display of “Team Play” for Kentucky so far this year, even with Randle out of the game. The Cats win the game by 7 points after a 5 point half-time lead, just think what Big Blue would have had if Julius had stayed in the game, maybe win by 15! The Cats are in good shape if everyone remembers what they had to do to beat the #6 team in the nation, now we just need to crush the SEC in conference play! Go Cats!!!!



  9. John Ellis
    11:44 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    While last year’s joys were few, that win over Florida with Uncle Julius and the Rupp crowd inching them over the hump was special. And something little noted so far – Wilkins is going to be a Kentucky legend. He will be leader of the team next year and very much as Darius was. It’s no accident UK has never won a title without a significant contribution from a Kentucky player.



    • UK
      11:50 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

      Hawkins



  10. kycatman
    11:51 pm December 29, 2013 Permalink

    Great article Matt, keep up the good work!!! Man it sure feels good to wake up the next day when we have won a big game like this. And, it is especially good whenever that win is over the Cards. Were getting better people so lets just all enjoy the ride!! Oh by the way, can someone make sure Julius gets plenty of liquids before our next game, we simply cannot have him getting the stupid cramps during big games!! He’s far too important to us to not be on the floor!! GO CATS!!!!!!!! GO CAL!!!!!!!!



  11. NotAshamed2BYT
    12:22 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    No surprise here. Conservative voices being suppressed here, just like every other place online. What happened to the 1st amendment?



    • Gracie
      12:48 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Haha — that’s really funny what you did there. Making fun of how idiots think the 1st amendment applies to blogs. Good job.



    • Rei
      1:04 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      A&E is still running the Quack Pack crap, go watch that.



    • Chicken
      1:05 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Dey took er jebs!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    • Haha
      9:06 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      @Gracie Thanks just wish Matt would leave comments on here.



  12. Daniel
    12:37 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Nice Recap, it was an awesome weekend and can’t wait till the guys play again next wed.



  13. Rod Strickland's Secret Smile
    12:56 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    I still can’t believe they ran all over Louisville in the second half without Randle. I really didn’t think the offense could score that well without him, and didn’t think the defense could hold the Cardinals that well even with him.

    Some people are saying U of L just isn’t that good, and I do think they’re weak in the front court right now, but I bet they’re a sweet 16 team, and if Harrell is doing a better Dieng impression at the defensive end by March, they may go further than that. They should have given the Cats trouble with their press and traps, but Kentucky had little trouble at all. That’s impressive.

    Great win.



  14. Chicken
    1:03 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    What happened to all of the hicks calling for Calipari’s job after the UNC loss? Did you all change your mind? Is the one and done formula working out for you now? “I don like Caliperi cause he lose to tar heels wit his dum 1 an dones!”



    • catdaddyd
      2:37 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      It probably the same hicks that called for Pintino’s job last year, when they lost three in a row.



    • Ha
      3:32 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      So you think 1 win negates the 3 loses? Does for dumb hicks in the state like you. But on the national level it doesn’t change very much. This team will drop several SEC road games. And you’ll be back to not commenting again.



    • Chicken
      12:20 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Ha: I think most reasonable people can conclude that at team full of 18/19 year olds takes time to develop. And yes, even if UK loses “several SEC road games”, I’ll still be defending a coach that has went to the final 4 in half of the seasons he’s coached here against fair weather fans like yourself.



    • Daniel
      12:45 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Ha: you sound extremely dumb



  15. Bunny
    1:43 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Nice post, Matt!



  16. chicken little dic
    2:10 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Chicken you are dumber than the people you are trying to make fun of, and thats really saying something..



    • Chicken
      12:22 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      If defending a coach that has taken our Cats to the final 4 in half of the seasons he’s coached here makes me dumb, than yeah… good point.



  17. Ha
    3:25 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Love to see all the fanboys turnout for a Matt post and jock him. Cal will never outcoach Pitino and anybody with even the slightest understanding of basketball knows that. And this game proved Cals system is better than Pitino’s? Really? One fairly meaningless game in December? That was at home. Taking NBA players and doing well at the college level doesn’t take much coaching. Cal has only succeeded with phenomenal talent. Talent that is now phenomenal in the NBA. Cal could never, ever win with last years U of L team. Or even 98s team for that matter. He’s a mediocre coach at best.
    From his own press conference words. The game plan he wrote on the board was “look like a team, play like a team, fight like a team.” I’ve never heard a wiser, yet incredibly vague, game plan. What 19 year old doesn’t understand exactly what that means? 7 NBA players on this team. Anything less than a Final 4 is a fail.



    • Terrible!
      4:33 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Change your name to “Huh”?



    • Chicken
      12:24 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Calipari 5 Pitino 1. Enough said.



  18. Doyle Hargraves
    3:44 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Ha, lol. Cal won at Umass with one guy, Camby. Dante Bright was a pretty good college player. UK’s 96 team, the most loaded team ever lost to UMass early and then pulled out a tough one in the Final 4. Pitino had the most stacked roster ever! Cal beat down the Cards in the 1st UK UL game at the Yum Center. Freaking Harrelson, and Liggins D beat the Cards. Yes Knight, Lamb, and Jones were very talented. I still think Pitino is awesome, I’m not a hater but the Harrelson team doesn’t beat OSU and UNC in the same weekend without a great coach. Pitino is 1-5 against Cal at UK. Spin all you want, but it is what it is.



    • TNO
      9:40 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Thanks Doyle, saved me from typing the exact same comment.



  19. musrat59
    3:44 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    I still don’t understand why slick Rick’s panties were in a wad concerning the refs and they still grab and hand check throughout the game and numerous walking by Smith. He is a whiner if I ever saw one and I might add also classless.



  20. NotAshamed2BYT
    4:20 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    And another thing — the will of the people has spoken, and Duck Dynasty is back on A&E as it should be. All the rainbow colition and ACLU libs couldn’t subvert the word of God. Come 2014, we’re gonna retake the Senate and impeach the impostor in the White House. COUNT ON IT!



    • Buckets
      6:26 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Isn’t your moniker usually Southside_Jimbo? You are seriously whacko and need to seek professional help.



  21. NotAshamed2BYT
    5:09 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    …couldn’t subvert the word of God (and also the blatantly racist bulls*** he said that has nothing to do with God nor the Bible, but we’ll pretend he never said it bc it doesn’t fit our narrative of God-hating libs).



    • That'stheanswer
      10:35 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      …too stupid to be ashamed. I’m sorry the ‘believers’ didn’t get raptured up in 2012 and leave the rest of us in peace.



  22. CPACAT
    8:03 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Two former football CATS on ESPNs Top 10 plays!
    -Jacob Tamme one handed catch from Peyton Manning!
    -Randall Cobb catches the game winner in his first game back!

    Go CATS!!



  23. 2nd Mouse Gets the Cheese
    8:31 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    The I dude must be going camping.



  24. [email protected]
    9:19 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    One thing I cannot stand is a sore loser. Pitino & Card fans whining about the calls is Russdiculous. You can play the “if” game all day long. Like Wayne Blackshier was going to dominate a future top 5 pick in James Young. Give me a break. Like Russdiculous walking all over the floor, yet no call. Like Julius getting mugged every time he powered it in, yet Card fans think that Julius should be called for offensive fouls. Cat fans could play the “if” “Card “too. Like what “if” we made foul shots. Like what “if” Julius played the 2nd half. I don’t know, maybe he would have scored 40. Point is, the history books will say the Cats won another one against lil brother.



    • L1C5
      9:30 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Look at the box score. ULoL had 6 more PF than UK. ULoL started to foul late in the game to try to extend the clock.
      If any TARD fan brings up the foul argument tell them to to kiss your a$$. #L1C5



  25. RealCatsFan
    9:27 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    So much for “Russ Arena”. So glad that BS is over! Great win for the Cats. They grew up a lot during this game – they should gain a lot of confidence from this win.

    The guy with the “I” on his chest looks to be packing wood. 🙂 Love the way our fans (especially the students) brought the noise for this game, but someone needs to buy these young men some shorts that actually fit.



  26. M
    9:29 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Nice recap. The game was great. We still struggle closing out on the perimeter, and the “elite” Luke H. had way too many good looks, but it was good watching this team fight. It’s also funny seeing Pitino complain about the refs while Randle gets the Shaq treatment; getting punished…but it’s okay because he’s bigger and stronger. From Poythress’ clean rip (called a foul), to WCS’ clean rip (called a foul), to Russ Smith going in to WCS out of control and throwing the ball out of bounds without WCS touching it (UL’s ball), to Russ Smith’s obvious walk right in front of the official, I’m not sure he has much to complain about. I will say that the 2nd foul on Harrell was a bad call, unless the official just called it on the wrong guy by mistake.



  27. Megan
    9:36 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    So until Saturday, apparently, Matt thought this basketball team pretty much sucked. Those are his words, as he acknowledges “out loud.” Three losses to good teams, and he lumps them in with everything else that’s been disappointing about UK athletics over the last 18 months.

    That really surprises me. I didn’t realize he was such a fair-weather fan. He’s really no better than those fans who don’t know a good thing when they have it.



    • M
      9:48 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      I disagree.



  28. Johnny Basketball
    9:37 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    I thought the effort UK played with was greatly improved over any game they had played this year.



  29. Bluecat
    9:39 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Bottom line is our FRESHMEN team beat loserville!, read it n weep slapnuts!
    3-stacks now 1-5 vs da man!



  30. 6xJimmy
    9:46 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    If UL is not allowed to handcheck, and bodycheck, they are going to have trouble defending good teams. I expect UL to have chemistry problems between “Daffy Duck” Russ Smith and Jones. Smith is not going to pass the ball to Jones so he can shoot all of the shoots.



  31. dshwilcats
    9:58 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Matt,

    I think those that have lived in Louisville, or currently live in Louisville, appreciate this victory more than Kentucky fans that have never had to deal with Louisville fans on a daily basis.

    I am probably a little older than your average reader/poster. I grew up a Kentucky fan in Louisville in the early 70s (listened to my first Kentucky basketball and football games in 1971, and have been a fan ever since). At that time, Louisville did not have the following in basketball that it would gain after its National Championships in 1980 and 1986. And as far as football was concerned, you were more likely to see a snowstorm in the Sahara than you were to find a Cardinal Football fan! As Louisville had more success in basketball, and Howard came along with all of his “on a collision course with the National Championship” talk, more and more people decided to jump on the Cardinal “bandwagon”. Many of these people, some of my family included, had never followed any team. But suddenly, they were “diehard”, “lifelong” Cardinal fans! One of the nice things about being away for college in the 80s was not having to listen to this constant barrage of hyperbole. If Louisville fans had been content just to support their own team, that would’ve been fine. But that wasn’t enough! They sought out Kentucky fans like myself to talk smack to, and to taunt at every opportunity. A lot of the “smack talk” that was directed toward Kentucky fans included their narrow-minded view that most Kentucky fans were racist, uneducated, drunken and jobless bums. It’s not much fun being a labeled a “racist” simply because of your allegiance to a certain school or team.

    I haven’t lived in Louisville for over 15 years now, but through the magic of social media, and contact with friends and family that still live there, I realize that nothing has really changed. If anything, the vitriol for Kentucky and its fan base among Cardinal fans has gotten worse. I guess the irony of all this hate is the fact that Cardinal fans, following the lead of Jurich and Pitino, act as if they are somehow “morally superior” to Kentucky fans. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase “we’re doing things the RIGHT way”, implying that the University of Kentucky is not. Makes my stomach turn just a little!

    I realize there are a lot of very nice, classy Card fans out there! I have the pleasure of knowing many of them. And, I know Kentucky has its fans that are out there on the “lunatic fringe”. But, to try and ignore the extremely obnoxious Cardinal fans, or to the turn the other cheek so to speak, simply doesn’t work, especially if you live in Louisville. Been there, done that! As a matter of fact, ignoring them probably made them come after you with a little more zeal because they somehow have the misconception that you are intimidated by them, and the success of the athletics’ department.

    Matt, even though I don’t listen to your show, I applaud you for giving the Kentucky fans, especially the ones that reside inside of Jefferson County, a voice!!



    • d
      10:19 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

      You articulated this point very well. I have tried to make the same argument to those who have asked about the rivalry; you did it much better.

      I was never really on board with the Pitino hatred when he went to Louisville. I thought the way he, his family, and his friends were treated upon his return was disgraceful. However, his struggles against UK really started to push him over the edge. I think he really became mentally unstable when Calipari was hired. Cardinal fans, who at one time were fairly normal people with whom you could share some fun rivalry banter, followed his lead and became unhinged as well.



    • Buckets
      12:36 am December 31, 2013 Permalink

      Great points, DSH! I remember your screen name from the old C-J comment sections. Always reasonable and well-spoken while many were not.



  32. KevinM
    10:19 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Great job by Cal and the Cats! The sun is brightly shining in CATlanta today and Cat fans should be proud of themselves affecting Pitino that makes him whine!

    A great way to end 2013 and more excitement in store in 2014!



  33. Rosie
    10:25 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Amen #32!!



  34. Dominique Hawkins
    10:39 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    Your show would not be complete without at least a brief discussion of the “I” in the photo on this post.



    • The I is Packing
      6:07 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      The I in the pic above…..well, he is packing!



  35. dshwildcats
    10:42 am December 30, 2013 Permalink

    d,

    Like you, I never begrudged Rick for taking the Louisville job. College athletics is a big-time business. By going to Louisville, I think Rick made the best decision for himself given the time and circumstances. That being said, I was already beginning to tire of Rick before he ever left Lexington. I will always appreciate what he did in helping to restore the Kentucky Basketball program. But, Rick’s condescending attitude toward fans, the media, etc., made him look very shallow. I think even after all these years, Rick still sees himself as much better than the average person. Rick’s line of thinking meshes well with a lot of Card fans who see themselves as more socially refined, better educated, and more affluent than the average “hillbilly”, “redneck” Kentucky fan.



    • UKBlue1!
      12:28 pm December 30, 2013 Permalink

      Pitino took the job @ UL because he was full of himself. The UNC coach would never take a job at Duke. He basically spit in the face of every UK fan and wipped the 96 banner with his ass the day he took the job at UL. He is UL’s problem now. I hope Calipari stays at UK for another 10 years because as long as he is here Barnhart can’t hire another Billy Clyde and we will always be competing for Titles.