- Wednesday, February 6 2008 -
Kentucky - 66 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
Auburn - 63 (Head Coach: Jeff Lebo) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Auburn 34, Kentucky 34
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|Georgia 63 - 58|||||Alabama 62 - 52|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
AUBURN, Ala. - In a season full of bizarre injuries and wild momentum shifts, Kentucky authored another stranger than fiction ending that left coach Billy Gillispie wondering aloud if his team was actually attempting to give him a heart attack.
The Cats nearly lost all of a six-point lead in the final 44.7 seconds before holding on for a 66-63 victory over Auburn at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The frenetic - and frantic - ending seemed fitting for a team again down two key players and sucking wind at the end.
"When we came here if you play perfect you win one game and if you play like we did you can still only win one game so we are very, very fortunate to leave out of here with a win," Gillispie said. "It's a conference road win and we'll take them any way we can get them. It was pretty ugly from our standpoint. The last four or five minutes of the game were things that just can not be happening at this point, but I'm very ecstatic about winning on the road."
UK (11-9, 5-2 SEC) led for much of the night despite floor general Ramel Bradley missing the game because he had not sufficiently recovered from a flu-like virus he had been fighting for nearly a week and Jodie Meeks again forced out of action with a hip injury. The result was a sloppy 24-turnover performance that all but cost the Cats a game where they shot 66.7 percent from the field. The deadeye shooting was the best effort since UK made 68.9 percent against Indiana on Dec. 22, 2000.
Ironically, Gillispie wasn't pleased with the offense and credited the Cats' defense - which allowed just 34.8 percent shooting in the second half and just 27.8 percent from long range for the game - for saving their skin.
"I just can't believe we didn't perform better," Gillispie said. "The thing that was beautiful was when you're stinking it up really bad on offense for long periods of time if you don't play really good defense your game is lost. Our defense was good enough to give us a chance to win and that's what happened, time ran out on them."
UK gave the basketball away five times in the final 3:44 of the game - once on a five-second inbound violation, once on an over and back call, twice in backcourt traps and on a badly telegraphed pass. When Crawford, who led UK with 20 points (and six turnovers), had the orange taken away by DeWayne Reed for a lay-in the Tigers had pulled within 64-63 with 23.8 seconds remaining. Crawford was nearly stripped again but he found Michael Porter open, who hit Ramon Harris on a run out before he was fouled. Harris then made one free throw to push the lead to two with 13.7 seconds left.
Needing only a two-pointer to send the game into overtime against the depleted Cats, Auburn instead spread the floor for Reed. Instead of taking Derrick Jasper one-on-one the 32-percent three-point shooter pulled up from NBA range at the top of the key and missed to the right with three seconds left. Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said after the game the Tigers got what they wanted out the possession.
"That dude was bold, he wanted to go for the win instead of the tie," UK freshman Patrick Patterson said. "I thought they would drive to the basket and pitch." "Since he missed it I was really happy," Gillispie added. "That's their choice and he has shown he can do that on the scouting report. He's not afraid to take big shots and it looked like it was going in, even the last shot looked like it was on line, but luckily for us it was a big miss."
As for the turnover-filled finish the absence of Bradley was clearly an issue.
"Back in the locker room Joe was like, 'We needed you out there.'" Patterson said. "He's the floor general and captain out there. He puts us on his shoulders and he wants the ball down the stretch in crunch time situations. If we have him we probably blow them out of the water."
Instead, the Cats did what they have done all year, make things rather interesting.
"I guess we just wanted to give Coach a couple of gray hairs," sophomore Perry Stevenson said.
Michael Porter (note this was action immediately after a foul had been called against Auburn)