- Monday, March 23 2009 -
NIT (at Omaha, NE)
Kentucky - 65 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Final Unranked by AP]
|A. J. Stewart||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||2||2||0||0||1||0||0||0|
Creighton - 63 (Head Coach: Dana Altman) - [Unranked]
|Kenny Lawson Jr.||24||5||11||0||0||2||2||5||1||6||1||1||2||2||0||12|
Halftime Score: Creighton 33, Kentucky 31
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|UNLV 70 - 60|||||Notre Dame 67 - 77|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Cats avoid tornado, slip by Creighton
OMAHA, Neb. - Tornadoes and tennis ball-sized hail ripped through the greater Omaha area just as Kentucky was getting ready to take the floor for its second round NIT game with Creighton. Given the way the past few weeks have played out it was fair to wonder if the storms were an omen.
Turns out the Cats may thrive under the turmoil after all.
Jodie Meeks slashed down the left side of the lane and hit an awkward leaner with 10.6 seconds remaining, drawing a foul in the process to give UK a 65-63 victory over home-standing Creighton. The final score was the largest lead of the game for the Cats, who now quickly turn around and travel to Notre Dame for a Wednesday night quarterfinal.
More than anything it alleviated - at least for a day - mounting pressure and innuendo about the future of UK coach Billy Gillispie.
"Any time you get to put the Kentucky jersey on you're going to play with pride," Meeks said. "We've got a chance in this tournament and we're playing to win. We're not ready for the season to be over."
Barely a year removed from having its Southeastern Conference Tournament opener against Georgia postponed because a tornado tore open the Georgia Dome the Cats found themselves in an eerily similar situation. While the players and coaching staff were unaware of the threatening weather roaring across Nebraska's cornfields they had certainly heard the speculation about their coach and his future.
With one final drive by arguably its best player and a rare miss from Creighton's top scorer all the worries were washed away as quickly as the storms exited the skies above Qwest Arena. Once Booker Woodfox's three-pointer from the left wing clanked off the iron and the rebound was corralled the Cats exploded in joy, sending a crowd of 16,984 fans who had been hoping to score a name-on-the-map win home disappointed.
"He's amazing," sophomore forward Patrick Patterson said. "His shot always seems to fall in. I saw the ball was going in. Maybe somehow some miracle, some breeze pushed it to the right and hit the middle part of the rim and bounced back but from my angle underneath the rim I thought it was going in.
"Maybe someone opened the door at just the right moment and got a burst of air."
Whether it was remnants of the actual storm that hit the area or a fitting metaphorical breath of fresh air, it signaled one of the few times the Cats had landed on the right side of fate.
"He came off that fade screen I was like, 'Lord, no,'" junior forward Ramon Harris said of Woodfox's shot. "It was a sense of relief. Everything seemed like it was in slow motion. When I saw the follow through I thought it was good but when we got the rebound I was able to breathe."
For maybe the first time in six weeks, everyone in blue was able to do the same.
Jodie Meeks attempts (but ultimately misses) a dunk in the first half as Creighton's Kenton Walker defends
Darius Miller watches as Creighton's Kenny Lawson Jr. makes a move
Jodie Meeks shoots what proves to be the game-winning points as time winds down as he drove against Creighton's Justin Carter (#1)