After a tough loss on the football field yesterday, Cats fans everywhere went to bed disappointed or, if you’re Stephen Johnson, “frustrated.” But today is a new day, and Kentucky basketball is back in action. Tonight at 6:00 p.m., the Wildcats will be facing the Canisius College Golden Griffins. Before tip-off, here are four things you need to know about UK’s upcoming opponent.
1.) How to pronounce it
Ah, the basics. After watching several YouTube videos, the best way for me to describe it is “cuh-knee-shus.” The more you know.
2.) Their coach is as new as they come
Reggie Witherspoon was hired by the Golden Griffins last May after former coach Jim Baron announced his decision to retire. Although Witherspoon may be new to this team, he is not new to coaching. He spent 14 years as the head coach at the University of Buffalo, in which the Bulls went 174-143 during his last 10 seasons. Witherspoon was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2012. However, they failed to make the NCAA Tournament during this time period, so he was let go in 2013. He went on to be an assistant at Alabama under Anthony Grant, but was fired when Avery Johnson took over as the head coach. In 2015-16, Witherspoon was an assistant at UT-Chattanooga. Tonight will be the Golden Griffins’ first game of the season, and therefore Witherspoon’s first game as head coach of the program.
3.) Well… almost as new as they come
After being hired just six months ago, it’s understandable to expect Witherspoon to still be a bit overwhelmed. But not so fast. During his time at the University of Buffalo, he experienced an even quicker turnaround. He was named as the interim coach of UB on Saturday, Dec. 4, 1999. On Tuesday, Dec. 7, Buffalo played North Carolina. Four days. FOUR!
“We practiced once on Saturday. Twice on Sunday. Once on Monday. That was a case of I hope I remember all the names of the players on the team,” said Witherspoon.
Compared to four days, six months must seem like a lifetime to Witherspoon.
4.) The Cats have played them before
In January of 1997, Rick Pitino coached the Wildcats to an 86-45 victory over the Golden Griffins in his last season as head coach. In December of 1997, UK once again played Canisius, and first-year coach Tubby Smith led the team to an 81-54 victory. Both of these seasons, UK went on to play in the National Championship game…just saying.
Here are some fun throwback pictures from the 1997 game:
Hopefully we’ll see some equally epic dunks again tonight.