Kentucky was one of six penthouse programs to suffer an ambush by a mid-major team before Thanksgiving.
“So, officer, couldn’t talk her down from the roof at Rupp, huh? The 300-pound lady jumped, what, 15 minutes before the 37th commercial during Billy Clyde’s postgame show? What were her last words?”
“Well, it was kinda garbled, since she was already airborne. But something like … ‘My gawwwwwwd, Garrrrrrrrrrdnrrrrrrrrr WEBBBBBBBB! It’s the Curse of Tubbbby!’ Then, acouple swear words and Splat!”
For Wildcat faithful it was apocalyptic, a loss to Gardner- Webb. Fires raged in California, drought-plagued Georgians fussed with Florida about water, Texas had floods, Minnesota had tornadoes, and UK fans had this. Just terrible.
We detected a grin on Billy Clyde Gillispie’s face as he squatted in front of the bench where his lieutenants and subs trembled at prospect of another boot camp. Boo birds and most everyone else had gone home, and the fat lady was on a roof ledge sobbing to a cop.
Billy Clyde’s grin? “See boys, toldja so. There are no cup cakes.”
A day later the media herd was in full cackle. ESPN’s Linda Cohn yakked more about Kentucky’s demise than Gardner-Webb’s grit. A newspaper writer wondered if Billy Clyde’s honeymoon was over. Another was denied an audience with pope Gillispie, for an exclusive on what happened. A third asked if UK players were tired from game-day practices. We wondered how 20-year-old kids could be tired in a season’s second game. If Ramel Bradley and the rest were as tired as they were embarrassing, then, “Hey, lady! You up there! Ya made the right decision.”
Predictably, the national media chirped and chortled about the sky falling on Lexington and Boiling Springs, N.C., being home to America’s new Appalachian State.
“They whipped us,” Gillispie said. Yes, a good whuppin’. UK didn’t lose, Gardner-Webb won.
Billy Clyde’s Wildcats were frustrated by bad decision-making and fatigued from chasing Gardner and Webb and their buddies, waiting for Rick Scruggs’ Baptist boys to surrender. In fact, Scruggs brought a team to Rupp that played the Rupp Way. Der Baron basics: Jump ’em quick, make ’em play (too) fast, take good shots, hustle back on defense, and push McDonald All- Americans out of their Cadillac comfort zones. The sky did not fall on Kentucky last week. A lady did not jump off the roof and we believe Tubby Smith slept fine. Probably chuckled into his Cheerios.
The grin on Gillispie’s face was a reminder to Big Blue Nation that college hoops today is a Discovery Channel. Gardner- Webb … Grand Valley State … Findlay … UNC-Greensboro … Mercer … and Belmont make it fun. Stay tuned for more.
At Kentucky, March Madness wouldn’t be what it is without a whuppin’ or two in November.
Gardner-Webb is a good team that got its fiddles tuned early. The gritty boys hit a few prayer shots., made 53 per cent, rebounded well, dealt 16 assists. Played smart. Rankings. UK No. 22 in preseason was no more believable than Musharraf promising elections.
Gillispie’s honeymoon might be over, but truth is his players merely wear the same color uniforms right now, and live in a posh house, practice in a plush gym. And, hey, it’s still football season.
– That seniors Joe Crawford and Bradley were allowed to flail in “lemme take this thing over” selfishness. In 25 minutes Crawford fiddled solo. In 40, Bradley unraveled as a leader. His poorest showing since coming to Kentucky.
– Gardner-Webb’s Scruggs exposed a major problem for Gillispie to solve. GW stifled UK high-low post sets, packed defense in the paint, invited UK big men to shoot from 15-17 feet. Rick Pitino will do it. So will Roy Williams, Kelvin Sampson and Bruce Pearl.
– And, the booing won’t help Kentucky during recruiting’s early signing period either.
Now, Gillispie will earn his bread. His players, stung by boobirds and being the new Appy State, must re-learn the difference between what makes a fat lady jump and what makes her sing.
HERE ‘N THERE
Just Wondering Dept. A Kentucky win over Tennessee two days after Thanksgiving would end an NCAA record 22-game Vols win streak over UK. If it happens will UK officials declare Monday a holiday for students as the Naval Academy did when the Middies ended their loss streak to Notre Dame?
Mr. Basketball(s). Nineteen are officially nominees for the KHSAA Hall of Fame, according to Mr. Basketball Fraternity executive director Harry Todd.
Good news. Ken Cox, former director of athletics for Fayette County and an outstanding college basketball referee, is home. Cox suffered a severe leg injury in a hunting accident last month. Surgeries and rehabilitation loom ahead. A Corbin native and personal friend of mine growing up, Ken is a top-of-the-line human being. We wish him full recovery.
There is a long and distinguished list of those who helped make basketball in Kentucky what it is. This space is dedicated to a few men and women who arguably have not received a full measure of credit. Tribute to: Corky Withrow (Central City), Coach Morton Combs (Carr Creek), Coach Donna Moir (Louisville), and Coach Spider Thurman (Manchester).
And so it goes. E-mail Bob Watkins at email@example.com