- Saturday, January 26 2008 -
South Carolina - 70 (Head Coach: Dave Odom) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 78 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 39, South Carolina 34
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Tennessee 72 - 66|||||Georgia 63 - 58|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Rally Cry! Cats turn back South Carolina
Billy Gillispie doesn't wear a colorful scarf on his head or sweeping robes and you catch him carrying around a crystal ball but don't try telling the players in Kentucky's locker room he isn't a soothsayer.
You don't have to be a part of a traveling circus to see the future, at least not if you're Billy Clyde Gillispie. Before the Cats even took the floor against South Carolina he had already plotted the game's course.
"I have come to realize Coach is always right," UK guard Ramel Bradley said. "He told us they would make some shots and he wanted to know how we would respond. He said they would go on a run and go up by about eight and they went up by seven. We just had to stay tough and not lay down. He said they'd go up by about eight points and he wanted to see how we'd respond and we clawed back into."
Gillispie's clairvoyance had to be stunning. The Cats won back-to-back games for the first time two months in nearly the exact fashion Gillispie predicted, shrugging off a 14-0 Gamecock run and fighting back from a seven-point second half deficit on their way to a 78-70 victory at Rupp Arena.
In what is becoming the norm for the Cats they once again took an opponent's best jab and refused to fold. This time it was a stretch where South Carolina made eight three-pointers in the space of 11 attempts to offset UK's stellar offensive game as well.
"We were all like, 'Are you serious?'" UK forward Patrick Patterson said. "They just came out and knocked down the threes. We went back to the huddle, Coach ripped on us and then Ramel took over the leadership role and we came out calm and collected and just played ball. I was thinking the entire time that I knew they were going to knock down shots because all the coaches told us they knock down contested shots, that's what they do."
Gillispie was impressed with the way UK kept its balance and then unleashed a 15-3 run down the stretch to turn a 61-57 deficit into a 72-64 lead. During that time the Cats held South Carolina to 1-of-9 from the field, a strikingly similar defensive effort to the one they had in the closing minutes of the Tennessee game.
"The most important thing would be how much we hung our heads when they use 24 seconds or 28 seconds on the shot clock and shot a three and made it," Gillispie said. "I'm very proud our guys never hung their heads and continued to try and guard.
"I think you have to give South Carolina a lot of credit. They have a system and they play a certain way and really execute very, very well and when they make some shots they can beat anyone. This team right here can definitely beat anyone. They've had one tough outing in conference play. They could have won (against Florida), they could have won at Vanderbilt and they could have won (this game). I don't look forward to playing them again."
With the defense shutting down the Gamecocks when it mattered most, Bradley continued his renaissance by turning in a series of clutch plays in the final minutes. The senior fed Patterson for a reverse with 2:34 remaining, stripped Zam Frederick in the lane on the ensuing defensive possession and then buried a three as the shot clock expired after pump faking his defender to seal the game with 41.5 on the clock.
"I had two bigs screen for me and I saw the big guy switch out," Bradley said. "I just wanted to draw a foul and when I pump faked he flew right by me and I hit the three."
At least one person wasn't surprised by Bradley's heroics.
"Ramel Bradley, I felt since his sophomore year when the money is on the line, the game is on the line, he's as good as there is," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said.
Wonder if Gillispie saw that one ahead of the time too.
Ramel Bradley (#3) streaks ahead for a layup
Derrick Jasper gets a step on USC's Mike Holmes
USC's Devan Downey goes into the Kentucky trees to attempt a shot.