(photo sent in by Mark in Texas)
Last week I asked for your favorite UK-related stories and they have come flooding in to my inbox. During the summer months I like to give you all a chance to talk about why you are such big UK fans and the memories that stick with you forever. Every Friday, I will post a couple of my favorites. If you have a story, email me at [email protected] and I will consider it for the post. Here are a couple for today:
My God where do I start?!?!? I guess I’ll go with my favorite memory of all time. I was about 8-9 years old and my dad was working for Ralph Hacker’s radio stations at the time (WVLK) and we got to go to a practice session at Memorial during the last year of Eddie Sutton’s tenure. Bill Keightly walked us around giving us the full tour of the facilities and letting me and my brothers just goof off while the team was practicing. After practice was over we got to go shoot some hoops at Memorial and John Pelphrey, who had a broken leg/foot at the time, came down and played H.O.R.S.E. with me and my brothers. To this day that sticks with me more than any of the 1000’s of memories I have and I truly cherish that moment in time.
Now, when I bumped into Ashley Judd at an Eric Clapton concert and showed her my poster I made, that was just damn funny.
For me, March 2, 1997 will always be a day that will live in infamy. I was a fresh 16 years old (my goodness, more than half of my life-time ago), and my dad and I were on our way to my first UK Basketball game. My dad won the tickets from buying a raffle ticket to support my high school track team. The seats were great. Lower arena, near mid court right behind the visiting bench.
There was a lot at stake. Their opponent, South Carolina, had already beaten them once (an overtime victory in Columbia). The Gamecocks were looking to secure the regular season SEC Championship with the win and, though nobody but possibly Rick Pitino knew, this would be the last time he would coach UK in Rupp Arena. Not to mention it was Senior Night; celebrating the Wildcat careers of Derek Anderson, Anthony Epps and Jared Prickett. The stage was set to be an electric, emotional game. And electric it was.
The Cats trailed for most of the game, taking their first lead mid-way through the second half. They never led by more than four, and the Gamecocks quickly regrouped and scored nine straight to recapture the lead. A pair of 3-pointers by Epps pulled UK to within one, but to no avail. Rick Pitino was ejected from the game with .4 seconds remaining and the game resulted in a 72-66 defeat. The Cats left their own court dejected; Anderson, Epps and Prickett leaving the Rupp Arena floor for the last time without the victory. The fans were near riotous. Growing up in Lexington, it is almost impossible not to become a fan of UK Basketball, but after what I had just witnessed, I was hooked.
And here we are again. March 1st, 2014 saw another defeat at the hands of the Gamecocks. The Wildcats seemed powerless to pull themselves up and over the wall to get the win that Saturday. Coach Cal was thrown out after committing his second technical foul with just over 10 minutes left and the game ended with the score within one point of the match in 1997 (72-67). The similarities cannot be denied. It stings for the UK Fan. Fears of not making the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row or making an early exit plague the mind of the Big Blue Nation. I’d still say the former was less likely, but the latter was a bigger possibility. Maybe, at least, on one side of the court or the other, a fan was made.