- Sunday, March 2 2008 -
Kentucky - 60 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0|
Tennessee - 63 (Head Coach: Bruce Pearl) - [Ranked 1st by AP and 1st by ESPN/USA Today]
|Chris Lofton (*)||25||3||5||1||2||7||8||1||0||1||3||1||0||1||3||14|
|J.P. Prince (*)||16||1||5||0||1||1||2||3||1||4||0||2||0||1||1||3|
Halftime Score: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 27
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi 58 - 54|||||South Carolina 71 - 63|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Vols hold off gutsy effort by Cats
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Hours after Kentucky lost star freshman Patrick Patterson to a season-ending injury teammate Perry Stevenson told fans "to watch" and see what the Cats could do without their big man.
What they saw was a team intent on proving their worth despite a devastating setback in what could have been one of the most pride-producing victories in recent memory.
Alas, the remaining Cats couldn't will their way to a win but they certainly earned the respect and admiration they sought in the process. Playing toe-to-toe with No. 1-ranked Tennessee before falling 63-60 in the closing seconds at newly renovated Thompson-Boling Arena will do that for a team.
"We played our butts off and put ourselves in a position to win," senior Ramel Bradley said. "We showed a lot of guts. We had a chance. We showed a lot of heart and toughness."
It certainly didn't look for promising for UK at the outset. Less than 48 hours removed from learning Patterson would miss the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left ankle the Cats faced the daunting task of facing a Tennessee team coming off a loss and back home to a place where it had won 30 consecutive games since UK defeated them near the end of the 2005-06 season.
When the Volunteers jumped out a 20-5 lead in the first nine minutes of the game it looked for all the world like UK might endure another nightmare like the 41-point debacle at Vanderbilt three weeks prior. Instead, the Cats rallied to within seven points by halftime to give themselves a legitimate hope in the second half.
The comeback continued after the break with UK claiming it's first lead at 42-41 with 13:54 remaining in the game. The lead would change hands 12 times before it was all said and done, with the Cats turning in a series of clutch shots as the shot clock ticked perilously close to expiring. All of it set up a final chance to tie the game and send it into overtime in the final 14.9 seconds but Joe Crawford's three-pointer from the right corner wouldn't fall.
"I'm really proud of a courageous effort by our players," UK coach Billy Gillispie said. "We played very smart for the most part. I don't know if I've been a part of a more courageous effort understanding the circumstances, but regardless of that it's still a loss.
"We shot to tie it at the end and had a great chance but sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. We put ourselves in a position to win against a very good team on their home court. It didn't happen but that's what we came for. The best part about it is our guys won't ever accept sympathy, didn't look for sympathy. We suffered a tough break on Friday, less than 48 hours ago, and they said, "Hey, let's figure out a way to do this.'"
The Cats did just that by revamping their offense and creating driving lanes for Bradley, Crawford and Derrick Jasper. What they couldn't finish at the rim Stevenson was able to clean up on his way a career high 14 rebounds, four more than his previous best. Add in Jasper's near triple-double, Ramon Harris' first double-figure scoring game of his career and A.J. Stewart's critical blocked shot in the final minute and the call to arms to replace Patterson was more than answered.
"They played great," Crawford said of his teammates. "Derrick brought all the dimensions of his game and I think he was really confident out there. Perry showed the most confidence I've seen in him, as well as Ramon. We need those guys to step up."
Although the end result wasn't what the Cats had in mind Bradley credited his own locker room for not succumbing to the negativity that enveloped the program in the hours after Patterson's injury was discovered.
"I don't think our fans ever doubted us but I think other people did when they heard about Pat and thought 'Those guys are finished now,'" Bradley said. "What we did (against Tennessee) is going to change a lot of people's minds.
"If (doubt) had ever crossed my mind I wouldn't have gone to practice the day he got hurt or taken the bus ride to Tennessee. We've never stopped believing."
For those who watched they most certainly saw that belief.
Derrick Jasper slides past UT's Wayne Chism to score
Ramon Harris tries to beat Tyler Smith off the dribble
Joe Crawford gets caught between Chris Lofton (#5) and Tyler Smith (#1)