I was given tickets last-minute to the game last night, so for the first time in a decade (and for my wife, the first time ever) we headed to hallowed Rupp Arena. What follows are the observations of your humble, self-appointed ASOB correspondent.
Pre-gameCameron Mills still looks like he could play to me. We got there early enough to see him doing some pre-game for the local radio station. During a commercial break, I was able to score an autograph from one of my all-time favorite past Cats. I thought it very gracious of him to take the time to do that for me.
Row GG is very high. My wife's knee (which sports a reconstructed ACL from September 06) was really barking by the time we got up there. That said, I have yet to find a bad seat in Rupp Arena. We had a great view of the game.
I was very proud of our crowd for giving a very nice ovation to Ole Miss senior guard Brian Smith (son of Tubby Smith, in case anyone didn't know.)
You don't realize how freakishly tall Jared Carter is until you see him laying down during his pre-game stretching!
In-gameThe crowd stayed behind our guys all the way through the difficult comeback by Ole Miss. The only ire I heard directed at anyone was Perry Stevenson, who the fans (including yours truly) felt was hurting us by becoming too tentative with the ball.
People will yell to the players as though the players can hear them, even from row GG. (Guilty as charged!)
This was the best part of the game. We stayed around to see all the post-game wrap-up.
While I was trying to get pictures and an autograph from player-of-the-game Perry Stevenson during his post-game interview, I got a chance to talk with the Ole Miss radio crew. They were very nice and gracious in defeat.
Meanwhile, in another part of the arena, my wife got a hug and a brief conversation with Tubby's wife, Donna Smith. She also witnessed an emotional exchange between Brian and Donna Smith, with the former in tears, telling his mother how he had let her down because they should have won this game. Donna (and my wife) told him he did no such thing, and that he should hold his head up. Donna also called out to Perry to "come give Momma a hug," which he apparently obliged. Then one of the cheerleaders sent some fudge back to Minnesota with Ms. Smith. She invited my wife to "come see one of our games, maybe when we go to Indiana." This little encounter verified what we already know; despite what we may like or dislike about Tubby's coaching, the Smiths are class acts, and apparently had very good relationships with the people at UK.
While waiting on Coach G, my wife got some pictures of the BBN's favorite walk-on, Mark Coury. Michael Porter also came out, but didn't stay long enough for her to get an autograph or picture. BTW, I'll try to get these pictures up on Google Photos and share the link with you guys soon.
Watching Coach G's post-game interview in person was great. I loved hearing him say he was pulling for Vandy so we'd have a chance at winning the SEC championship rather than pulling for UT and holding on to second. This was the right answer in my opinion, and I was also pulling for Vandy. I got close enough to get a few good pics of Coach, and thanks to a nice usher, got his autograph on my program! I was really impressed with how long he stayed in the arena after the interview, signing autographs. My wife also got one (with her hands trembling! LOL) and got an unbelievable face-on close-up that will probably be going to Wikipedia very soon. :)
Patrick Patterson was extremely friendly and patient, coming out after Coach G and signing something for every single person who was waiting for him. He also took pictures with many of them, despite the fact that his foot (or perhaps ankle) was hurting so badly that he wasn't wearing one shoe and was walking with a noticeable limp. I assume this is the natural consequence of playing major minutes in the SEC, and not something abnormal that we should be concerned about. I overheard part of a conversation between Pat and a fan where I believe the fan asked him if he was coming back next year and he said he was. Take that for what it's worth. Judging from what I saw tonight, mark it down - Patrick Patterson the person is every bit as special as Patrick Patterson the player.
I was also privileged to speak to Patrick's dad, who was waiting for his son with a young lady I was told was Patrick's girlfriend. The father was also very gracious and friendly, and signed an autograph or two himself. He did not seem put out at having to wait so long for his son; perhaps he is used to it by now, but I still thought it was nice.
All in all, my wife and I had an outstanding time. Staying for all the festivities meant arriving back at my little corner of the Central Time Zone about 1:30 AM (a decision I'm really feeling as I prepare to go to work this morning) but three autographs (and two for my wife) and about a million digital pictures later, it was worth every hour of missed sleep (and the $35 tank of gas it took to make the trip!) LOL