That's right, Cat fans. Two weekends ago, we were Croomed in football. Tonight, we were Scrugged in basketball.
Losing a game in the Bluegrass is never fun, and it truly stinks to lose to a mid-major with an enrollment of 5000 when you are ranked in the top 25. Needless to say, that ranking will ... decline.
Make no mistake about it, this was the tale of a team who was prepared and executed their game plan to perfection, and one that was victimized by their lack of fundamentals and a game plan that failed utterly in all phases -- planning, execution and effort.
Billy Gillispie said that the team played poorly in all areas last night. They played almost the same game tonight as they did last night, except they played against a more talented team that had seen the previous couple of UK games, and new exactly what to do about it. Gardner-Webb utilized a fascinating process called "logic" to figure out how to attack the Kentucky pressure. Since we are on the subject of logic, we might have reasonably expected coach Gillispie to utilize that same process to figure out how to respond. In this instance, for whatever reason, we would have been wrong.
Kentucky stayed with pressure despite the obvious early conclusion (i.e. after we were down 14-0) that it wouldn't work against this team. Perhaps Gillispie was thinking out of the box, or perhaps he simply wanted to see how his team responded to adversity. Who can say for sure? Either way, the plan backfired in ... yes, I think we can say in a major way.
Despite the likely hand-wringing and embarrassment that the Big Blue Nation will feel after being handed it's bob-tail by the mighty Runnin' Bulldogs, this is a game Kentucky can afford to lose without any real repercussions (unless, of course, you count missing the opportunity to lose to UConn, or dropping out of the rankings a repercussion). Frankly, I'd rather just leave it here. This Kentucky team isn't ready for the small time, let alone the big time.
Losses are never good, and this one is no different. But we have to look at reality -- they Runnin' Bulldogs simply outplayed us in every single aspect of the game. They earned this victory, and I congratulate them -- they were tough, disciplined, and not intimidated like Central Arkansas was. I wish them well in New York. Who knows, perhaps they'll handle UConn and make us all feel a tiny bit better -- I loathe Jim Calhoun, and I would like to see him cry. But bottom line, this one is embarrassing to a seven-time national championship winner and no amount of posturing, excuses or rationalizations will change that fact. Unless the Runnin' Bulldogs go on to win the whole thing, we are going to have to face the reality that this makes us look like what we are -- a bad team. Oh, we can still be a good team, and I think we will -- just not today, and possibly not for a while.
For Gillispie, the bloom is officially off the rose. I don't think we'll see many "far Gillispie" comments yet, although the lunatic fringe of the Big Blue Nation, God bless 'em, will supply some of that somewhere. But Gillispie was either totally outcoached, or playing a mind game with his kids that simply malfunctioned and blew up in his face. Take your pick. Neither one is particularly attractive. At Kentucky, we aren't used to seeing coaches put games in jeopardy to make points with the team. Still, it is only one game, and it is very early in the season. Last time we were upset like this, we won like 26 SEC games in a row to make up for it. I would gladly make that swap if it happened again.
If you think I have been hard on Gillispie in this post, I don't mean to -- he and the team have barely had time to get acquainted before being thrown into four games in something like seven days. That's something you normally don't see at the beginning of a season. I would submit that the team looked fatigued, and we just ran into a better prepared and more determined opponent. I have no doubt that coach Gillispie was feeling a bit fatigued also, and it seemed to show. Despite his reputation, Gillispie is still a human being, not Chuck Norris.
The coach has his hands full right now with a team filled with underclassmen, injuries out the ying-yang, and trying to learn what his team is like. I expect he hates this loss just as bad as the most rabid of us do, but I also suspect he fully understands that he and the team must put this in proper perspective and face it like adults, as a learning experience. It would help if we in the Big Blue Nation adopted that attitude as well.
Well. Here we are, without a basketball game for another couple of weeks. For the team, I suspect it will be (quoting Major Winifred Vincent Payne) "Fourteen twenty-three hour days full of fun and adventure." I suspect Gillispie is gonna make them boys strong.
But look at it this way -- we still have a football team to cheer for. Now, we can dedicate ourselves strictly to that for a while.