- Tuesday, January 22 2008 -
Tennessee - 66 (Head Coach: Bruce Pearl) - [Ranked 3rd by AP and 5th by ESPN/USA Today]
|Chris Lofton (*)||30||7||14||5||10||3||3||0||2||2||4||0||0||0||1||22|
|J.P. Prince (*)||18||3||4||0||0||3||5||2||0||2||2||0||1||2||3||9|
Kentucky - 72 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Tennessee 36, Kentucky 30
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Florida 70 - 81 OT|||||South Carolina 78 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Orange Crushed: UK stuns No. 3 Tennessee
Kentucky's basketball program had been searching for its juice for more than two years. Turns out all it had to do was squeeze it out of a big orange.
The Cats dominated No. 3 Tennessee over the final 13 minutes of action, upsetting the Volunteers 72-66 behind a roaring Rupp Arena crowd. It was the second straight victory over a ranked opponent, the first time UK has done that since March of 2005 and the first win over a team ranked as high as No. 3 since 2003.
Play hard. Play smart. Play Together. The Cats did all three and earned the ultimate reward.
"These guys have figured it out," UK coach Billy Gillispie said. "They are going to be tough as nails no matter who they are playing against. No matter what the situation might be they are going to battle until the end. That's what makes you so proud as a coach."
UK held Tennessee to only two field goals for 13:21 until Chris Lofton buried two meaningless three-pointers in the closing 14.5 seconds. Meanwhile, the Cats (8-9, 2-2) erased a nine-point deficit and hit 12 straight free throws over the final 1:30 to seal the game.
On the flip side, Tennessee grew increasingly frustrated on the offensive end of the floor, rushing jumpers and struggling to find any flow or poise in the face of the Cats' suffocating defense and a deafening crowd.
"Kentucky was the more passionate team, but I knew coming in they were playing with great confidence," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "It was difficult to see a Tennessee team come into Rupp without that passion and poise."
The Volunteers' unraveling wasn't lost on the Cats. It's what UK has traditionally done to most everyone who entered Rupp Arena's hallowed walls.
"At the end of the game when those guys started getting tight they were talking more and were frustrated," UK guard Ramel Bradley said. "That made me happy because I've got a lot of confidence in my players. Those guys are a really good team so it's their job to be confident but I just think you have to show some class. You don't wear you're earrings in warm-ups, those types of things. We took offense to that."
Bradley, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists, drew heavy praise from Gillispie after the game for his role in the victory. Not only did the senior make all 10 of his free throw attempts in the final 3:17, he also held Lofton scoreless through the first 17-plus minutes of the second half after 14 points before halftime. Turns out pregame cheers for Lofton didn't sit well with the ultra-competitive Bradley.
"That's part of Ramel," UK forward Perry Stevenson said. "He's got a lot of pride and seeing Chris Lofton come in there and get cheers, I don't think he liked that very much. It was on his agenda to not let him do what he wants, to make him do what we wanted him to do."
"I don't know if he's ever played a better game," Gillispie said of Bradley. "He was outstanding defensively, leadership wise and enthusiasm wise. I don't know if he could have done any more for us than what he did."
It's probably not coincidence that UK's most passionate player was the general of bringing some of that old Kentucky swagger back when the Cats needed it most.
UT's Wayne Chism can only watch as Patrick Patterson (#54) dunks the ball
Perry Stevenson defends against J.P. Prince, cousin of Tayshaun
Derrick Jasper (#5), Patrick Patterson (#54) and Ramel Bradley (#3) all go for the rebound