This was a great highlight in Kentucky history, but it doesn't make my top two.
Kentucky has such a long and storied history full of great highlights, it's possible for everybody to pick a favorite and nearly all of them could be different. In my lifetime, there have been some truly memorable moments, from Goose Givens' 41 points against the Duke Blue Devils to win the 1978 NCAA Tournament title to Jodie Meeks' 54 against the Tennessee Volunteers, there are more than enough great highlights to choose from.
For me, though, there are two that stand out above all others -- one was a team highlight, and the other was an individual highlight. We are going to include both of them in this article, and I encourage everyone in the Big Blue Nation to add their favorite in the comments below if it's not one or both of these.
Highlight #1 - The Mardi Gras Miracle -- Kentucky Wildcats at LSU Tigers: Tuesday, February 15th, 1994
This represents the one and only UK game I have on videotape. I have never been much for re-watching basketball games more than a couple of times, and it used to be my habit to record them, watch them a time or two, then record over them. This one was an exception.
I have a personal story behind this game as well. When UK was down big at the half, my wife decided that the game was over and retired for the night. She encouraged me to join her, but I remember telling her something like "If I can watch them win by 30, I can watch them lose by 30." That was one of the most memorable decisions of my life.
Here's the setup, from an article I wrote for the now-defunct Maple Street Press a few years back:
The Tigers had few big people had been struggling lately from the perimeter, dropping their last two games to Alabama and Auburn, both on the road. [LSU head coach Dale] Brown knew LSU was going to see a lot of zone defense from UK, as well as the usual Rick Pitino trademark, a scrambling full-court press capable of rendering opponents helpless and piling up points off of turnovers and steals. LSU was struggling a bit at 11-9 on the season and 5-6 in the SEC. Brown and the Tigers were trying to make their 11th straight NCAA tournament appearance, but they had a murderous schedule left to go including highly ranked Arkansas and Louisville along with Kentucky.
Kentucky was well on its way to securing a berth in the NCAA tournament at 21-6 (7-3 in the SEC), but the rough patch they had hit before heading down to the bayou had Kentucky concerned. The Wildcats were feeling pressure from the fans and media not to drop their third in a row, something that the Wildcats had not done since Rick Pitino’s first year as Head Men’s Basketball Coach. All in all, this was a big game for both teams – LSU to rescue their fading hopes at getting into the tournament, and UK to prevent a three-game skid that could put their season into a tailspin.
Now, we must have video. This one is 15 minutes long, and contains most of the game's main plays, but the editing is -- well, it's pretty bad. If you just want to see the comeback, fast-forward to about the 7:20 mark. That's where LSU reaches 31 points and sets the stage for the largest comeback in NCAA history:
Never in all my life will I forget the expression on Walter McCarty's face after he drilled the three from the left corner to put UK ahead by one after being down 31(it isn't shown in this video, but it is on my tape). It was truly one of the most unforgettable highlights in all of Kentucky history, even if the game was a relatively meaningless one.
This represents the team highlight.
Highlight #2 - Tayshaun Prince Makes 5 Straight Threes versus the North Carolina Tar Heels - December 8th, 2001
North Carolina came in unranked vs #11 Kentucky in Rupp Arena, and for some reason decided that they would live with Tayshaun Prince shooting from the perimeter rather than giving him a chance to drive. They picked the wrong poison that day:
This has to be the greatest two minutes of offensive basketball I can remember having seen from one player, not just at UK but anywhere. 15 points in 2 minutes. Wow.
Prince went on to take six more 3-point shots, making two, and winding up with 31 points and 11 rebounds on the way to a 79-59 thumping of Matt Doherty's Tar Heels. I never get tired of watching that 2 minute stretch, it's absolutely mesmerizing.
Okay, that's me. What are your favorite highlights?