- Wednesday, March 5 2008 -
Kentucky - 71 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||2||2|
South Carolina - 63 (Head Coach: Dave Odom) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 34, South Carolina 25
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Tennessee 60 - 63|||||Florida 75 - 70|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Bradley, Crawford carry Cats to critical SEC win
COLUMBIA, S.C. - For a moment Ramel Bradley channeled his inner Patrick Sparks, utilizing every inch of the backboard and rim at The Colonial Center in draining the biggest shot of Kentucky's latest thrill ride.
Evoking images of Sparks' buzzer-beating three-pointer against Michigan State in the 2005 NCAA Tournament, Bradley banged a NBA length triple off the back of the rim and straight into the air then watched it kiss the front of the iron before bouncing off the backboard and into the net. The shot stemmed a last ditch run as the Cats vanquished South Carolina 71-63 before 13,324 fans in Carolina coach Dave Odom's final home game.
"The thing about being a good shooter is the rim will work with you," Bradley said with a smile. "I think the basketball gods were with me on that one, bouncing around a couple of times and then it fell in.
"Shooter's bounce mixed with a little bit of basketball gods."
UK coach Billy Gillispie was a little less confident in where the shot came from.
"I don't know how that thing went in," Gillispie said.
Bradley's backbreaking triple gave the Cats a 65-57 lead with 2:46 remaining and stopped a 15-4 South Carolina spurt dead in its tracks. Once ahead by 16 points in the second half, UK had watched the lead dwindle to five before Bradley took a handoff from Perry Stevenson just to the left of the top of the key and launched with four seconds on the shot clock.
While Bradley's dagger will be the one most fans remember it was a career night by fellow senior Joe Crawford that keyed the victory. Crawford poured in a career-high 35 points, including 19 after halftime. He buried back-to-back NBA length three-pointers midway through the half as the Cats opened up their big lead. Crawford also made 11-of-12 free throws in his big night.
"In the end it was too much Joe Crawford and too much Ramel Bradley," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "When those guys put their mind to it they are as good as any twosome in the league.
"It was an extraordinary effort by Joe. He's a terrific player. Ramel Bradley is an excellent, excellent player. Those two players can take you a long way."
The dynamic senior duo scored 55 of the Cats' 71 points, including 48 of the final 52 and 33 of the 37 in the second half. Despite being the focal point of the South Carolina defense the two seniors put UK on their backs once again.
"Fifty-five of 71?" Gillispie said. "That's not the way you like it but you like it when two guys score 55."
The victory gave the Cats 11 Southeastern Conference wins but more importantly proved they can win without star freshman forward Patrick Patterson. Although UK nearly knocked off Tennessee in Knoxville it was still a loss, but beating a Carolina team that is difficult to guard on the road solidifies UK's NCAA Tournament hopes.
"I think it looks good for us," Crawford said. "I'm not sure if we are totally in yet but we want to focus on finishing out strong and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.
"I think it means a lot more than it did the previous year because of the way we started and it seemed like there wasn't a chance for us. People were counting us out and saying the season was over. We fought back all the way to compete for the SEC title."
Just like Crawford fought back from what he felt like was a disappointing effort in Knoxville to post the best game of his career. The senior was feeling so good at one point in the second half he launched from nearly 30 feet and just missed - although he claims he was fouled on that play.
"He was feeling it," Bradley said. "I told him after game I was so mad because it was so easy, it was like they weren't even guarding him out there. He couldn't miss a shot. I even thought the one where I passed it back to him and he shot it from midcourt that one was going in. He couldn't miss."
Even Gillispie had to laugh at the bomb from near the Carolina logo.
"I was really disappointed he missed that 42-foot shot," Gillispie said. "I know that they were trying to contest it and that says something about his performance when they are trying to contest it that far away from the basket. He got on a roll. He played fantastic."
Another night, another thrill ride.
Joe Crawford (#32) tries to get by USC's Devan Downey (#2) en route to a career-high 35 points
Ramon Harris (#34) looks for an opening around South Carolina's Sam Muldrow