Anthony Davis was in the right place at the right instant. He had the right instinct and the right reaction. He should embrace the moment. Amid all the joys to come, there will never be another quite like the one he had near the very end of Kentucky’s win over North Carolina on Saturday.
The Tar Heels’ John Henson had the basketball 10 feet out as the clock wound to :07. Maybe because Davis is so thin, Henson didn’t see him. Maybe because the 6-feet-10 shot-blocker Henson is unaccustomed to challenge, his brain failed to register the reach of Davis.
With Henson cocked to shoot an almost certain game winner, Davis, not a millisecond too early or too late, rose up like an Aurora Borealis gone vertical. Henson’s shot was doomed.
The beauty of Davis’s play was still to come. Unlike the “look-atme ism” in much of today’s game, he did not swat Henson’s shot into Rupp Arena’s fifth row. Instead, he tipped the ball to himself.
There it was, Kentucky 73, North Carolina 72. A throng of 24,398 witnessed it live while a national television audience also got a treat. The real joy was seeing a skinny kid from Chicago succeed and embrace the precious present.
The 73-72 score will be forgotten in time. Even the fevered atmosphere of No. 1 versus No. 5 on a December Saturday in 2011 will cool.
But Davis’s block on Henson is now on the archival highlight reel at Big Blue Nation where the citizenry recalls with clarity every drama moment from here back to Patrick Sparks’s bump and bounce 3-pointer against Michigan State in 2005, on to Vernon Hatton’s half-court miracle against Temple in 1957.
And, then to now, you have your favorites.
This week, Davis can bask in warmth of his precious present at Kentucky and, along with fans, ignore for a moment John Calipari’s tiresome chirp that “Davis is (NBA Draft) the number one pick.”
• A CBS national telecast of a December college hoops classic matching premier programs and no isolation shot of Wildcats super fan Ashley Judd? Did I miss it?
• More than any other Wildcat, Marquis Teague’s first megagame experience could advance his play. Going home to Indiana this week, Teague’s experience last Saturday could make all the difference this Saturday. First up? With ball in hand at end-game time, point guards must make free throws. Period.
• Defense. Kentucky’s aggressive double-down on Tyler Zeller in late game not only stymied the big man’s shooting, but smothered passes to teammates. Brilliant strategy and time to spring it on. Zeller was superb too.
• As Kentucky’s team starts to jell, one element vital to all successful teams emerges. Warriors. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller fill the bill.
Observations II …
• Bowl game matches? I like …
Belk Bowl – North Carolina State and Louisville.
Capital One Bowl – South Carolina and Nebraska.
And my favorite, Liberty Bowl – Cincinnati and Vanderbilt.
• From the Don’t Miss This Dept. Thursday night at Rupp Arena, 10th ranked Kentucky (8- 0) versus Duke (6-1). Women’s college basketball will be aired on Fox Sports South. Tip-off is 6 p.m.
• Murray State. Moving up the Teams to Watch List: Coach Steve Prohm’s fun-to-watch Racers join Creighton, Saint Louis, UNLV and San Diego State. A road win at Western Kentucky then Dayton at home last week pushed Murray State to 9-0. Best season start since 1998. Next up: At Memphis Sunday.
• High school champions. The Commonwealth’s Bermuda Rectangle is established. From Fort Thomas to Hazard to Bowling Green to Louisville, new banners have been raised.
Fantasy matches? How about unbeaten Fort Thomas Highlands against unbeaten Bowling Green? Louisville Central versus Hazard? Trinity? The Shamrocks against University of Louisville at Papa John’s Stadium? Don’t laugh.
LSU versus Alabama again. No thanks. Money Ball II.
Amusing, the speed and vigor with which television talking head analysts at ESPN dispensed scorn for the BCS system and turned apologists for the Tigers-Tide rematch. We all know a more attractive match nationally would be LSU-Oklahoma State.
The net effect is achieved however — three weeks of media rant and barbershop buzz about LSU-best ever … roll Tide … and injustice to OK-State. All if it sends ratings up and advertising rates soaring.
Inevitably, two items will drag college football to a playoff system.
Mr. Football Time
Time for Kentucky Mr. Football candidates to be reviewed and a choice made by those who vote.
Before the honor is handed to Patrick Towles at Highlands or J.J. Jude at Johnson Central or Anthony Wales at Central, voters will be careful, won’t they, to research candidate credentials for academic achievement and school community involvement? Right?
In what amounts to common sense, brilliant observation and repudiation of shrill Dick Vitale and all other media screamers, the November 28 edition of Sports Illustrated offered a feature on radio broadcaster and Baseball Hall of Famer Vin Scully.
SI: Nothing stamps a moment as history quite like an announcer — in this case, the greatest who ever lived — going silent.
Scully: “What I’ve always tried to do is call the play as quickly as I can and then shut up, not only for the benefit of the listener but for my own joy of hearing the crowd roar.”
And so it goes.