- Wednesday, November 7 2007 -
2K Sports College Hoops Classic
Gardner-Webb - 84 (Head Coach: Rick Scruggs) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 68 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie)
|A. J. Stewart||5||0||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Halftime Score: Gardner-Webb 38, Kentucky 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Central Arkansas 67 - 40|||||Liberty 80 - 54|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
No Garden Party
Billy Gillispie won't soon forget his 48th birthday or the fact that no one wished him well on it. All the new Kentucky coach is likely to remember is he still wouldn't consider it the worst one he's ever had, although it's hard to imagine much that could trump a crushing home loss to team picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Gillispie's honeymoon is officially over after Gardner-Webb, a team that won just nine games a year ago, hammered the Cats 84-68. The Cats (1-1) were so bad several thousand of the 19,845 fans in Rupp Arena were asking for an annulment of the marriage in the form of cascading boos as the final buzzer sounded - and long before.
"That was a good whippin'," Gillispie said. "That was a great exhibition of basketball (by Gardner-Webb). They came in here and beat us in every phase of the game. The final score was not indicative of how we played. This is a pretty tough loss."
UK's easy path to the semifinals of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic in New York City turned out to be a roadblock, as the Runnin' Bulldogs burst out of the starting blocks on their way to a 14-0 lead and never let the Cats get an closer than seven the rest of the way. The Cats were even less threatening after halftime, pulling to within only eight before allowing a wide open three-pointer by Grayson Flittner, who led Gardner-Webb with 22 points, effectively pulled the plug on any valiant comeback attempt.
Following the lead of Grand Valley (Mich.) State and Findlay College, who defeated Michigan State and Ohio State in exhibition games, Gardner-Webb threw caution to the wind and attacked the Cats from the opening tip. Not one time did UK play as 'the hunter' the way Gillispie said his teams always do.
"We said in the locker room, 'We can win this game. It's not out of reach,'" Gardner-Webb forward Thomas Sanders, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds, said. "It became apparent when we got out to a great start and then we never looked back."
What followed was a clinic in team basketball and execution, so much so that even Gillispie was appropriately impressed with Gardner-Webb's unselfish nature. In looking at his own team, which has just 17 assists to 28 turnovers in two games, Gillispie saw nothing but an opportunity to self-evaluate in the mirror.
"I know (UK fans) have seen a lot of great basketball here and I'm not saying Gardner-Webb is going to win the national championship but that was a great display of basketball," Gillispie said. "It's a long season. We have to try and regroup and try to...maybe it changes the way some guys think and the way we all need to act.
"We can't just think we are going to beat somebody because we wear a certain jersey. I guess that comment about always being the hunter is thrown out the window. They took it to us. All of that is my fault."
Gillispie's message seemed to be heard loud and clear - unfortunately after the game.
"There are a lot of lessons I think," senior Ramel Bradley said. "They moved the ball, they helped each other out on defense, they ran the floor extremely well, they cut hard. I think there is a lot we can learn from them.
"It just makes you think, 'Are we going as hard as we can? Can we go 100 times more? Can we come more together as a team?' Those are the things you question when you have a loss like this. You want to get back and work harder and step it up a couple more notches."
With two weeks before they next take the court against Liberty practice must certainly make perfect for the Cats. In the meantime, Gillispie is left to pick up the pieces.
"It's catastrophic, believe me," Gillispie said. "It's not pretty at all but it is over with and you hope you get over it and learn something."
Patrick Patterson dunks over Gardner-Webb's Grayson Flittner