I’ve always hated Duke. I was born with it, just six months old when “The Shot” happened. If I could have it my way, Kentucky would play Duke every year, giving the Cats more chances to erase the evil from the past.
Unfortunately, a Kentucky-Duke matchup only occurs about once every Blood Moon. Tomorrow will only be the 5th time the two have played since the Laettner game. Each game has left a lasting memory. Cameron Mills’ deep 3-pointer in the NCAA Tournament is framed in many a man cave across the BBN. Alex Poythress was a monster the first time they faced-off in the Champions Classic, scoring 20 and grabbing 8 rebounds. However, when I think of Kentucky-Duke games, the person I think of first is Rashaad Carruth.
It was the 2001 Jimmy V Classic at
Madison Square Garden Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. The Cats were over-matched against the defending National Champions who had the best player in the nation, Jay Williams (the only Dukie I’ve ever liked). Still, 10-year old Nick Roush believed Keith Bogans and Tayshaun Prince were two of the best to ever put on a Wildcat uniform. If anybody could slay the Duke beast, it was those two.
Instead of Bogans and Prince, freshman McDonald’s All-American Rashaad Carruth stole the show. He was the first UK player to ever have a pervasive cockiness that you could feel without HDTV. He never looked like he was trying, except when he was trying to get his own shot. When he was hot, he was REALLY hot, and he let the other team know it.
Carruth got hot in Madison Square Garden. In only 11 first half minutes, he dropped 14 points in a flurry. It didn’t matter how tight they were defending him, he was lights out. Then the greatest trash-talking event in the history of our school happened: Carruth barked at the Duke bench after knocking down a jumper. He was immediately my hero. While shooting hoops on the Fisher-Price goal in my basement, I would bark at the imaginary Duke bench as I hit J’s in their eye. Carruth was exactly what Tubby had been missing, the birth of a star.
For better or worse, I couldn’t see the game come to a close. My parents forced me to bed when UK went to the locker room up three. It was well passed my bedtime when Jay Williams finished off the Cats in overtime, 95-92, dropping 38 points. Duke was so good that year that the loss wasn’t a detriment to morale, especially with Carruth as a silver lining. It was going to be his breakout game, the first of many. In reality, it was the only.
Tim Sullivan’s column for the Cincinnati Enquirer had the cockiest postgame quotes that have ever been uttered from a UK locker room.
“I think they knew who I was,” Carruth said later. “I just haven’t played enough minutes to know what kind of impact I’d have. But I could see them scrambling to to try and guard me.”
Though the goateed guard was a McDonald’s All-American, his work thus far this season had been spotty. Yet on this night, before ESPN’s cameras and a sellout crowd, Carruth announced his presence with a streak shooting demonstration that suggested the Wildcats have more weapons than many supposed.
“I’m not scared of nothing,” Carruth said. “It was my time to step up.”
Carruth took six shots from the field before intermission. Five of them found the net. Four of them gave the Wildcats the lead. Carruth looked very much like the player Smith has described as the best three-point shooter he has ever coached.
“This was probably the game I had an outbreak in,” Carruth said. “I knew I could do it all season. It was just a matter of getting playing time … I felt real good. I’ve played in front of this many people and that didn’t bother me. Just because it was Duke didn’t bother me. We both put on our socks at the same time.”
Carruth didn’t put on UK socks much longer. As a matter of protest, he refused to shoot against Kentucky State. He transferred not long after to Oklahoma, then a Junior College before finishing college at Southern Miss. The last we’ve heard of him was from a Walton County, Florida prison.
Tomorrow night’s game will surely create some memories, but it will be hard for anyone to top the barking dog, Rashaad Carruth.
I couldn’t find the exact moment when Carruth started howling, but the film from the game begins when he starts to heat up late in the first half.
I hope you took some time to watch it because this team has some of my favorite Wildcats: Bogans, Prince, Hawkins, Fitch, Daniels, Hayes and Souleymane “JULES” Camara. You can also take a gander at the box score to complete your blast from the past.