1982. Reagan was in office. Gas was $1.30 a gallon. The U.S. Population was just under 232 million people. Record lows were reported that winter in cities across the U.S. The first issue of USA Today was published. The first artificial heart was implanted. The Vietnam Memorial was dedicated. Oh, and Kentucky won its most recent SEC Basketball Tournament Championship.
That streak of despair could very well end today.
The Cats have been on a tear in Duluth, first fighting past the Gators and Saturday playing a stunner of a game to beat the top seeded Gamecocks. And they did it as a TEAM. The Cats shot a tick below their season average (42.4% vs an average of 43.5%). They didn't win the rebound battle (34 to USC's 39). They didn't win the block battle (3-6). But they won, and won in spectacular fashion because from the tip this club knew they were going to win. No one player has stepped up to be the lone hero; instead they had evenly balanced scoring (4 players in double digits) and tenacious defense. (Managing turnovers helped too.)
So, what are the keys to getting past perennial powerhouse Tennessee and to that spectacular winner's stage?
We keep doing what we're doing.
1) Ferocious, unyielding defense. The Vols are the second best shooting club in the conference at 46.2% and lead in offensive rebounds per game. Don't give them open looks, and deny the second chance points. They're third in the conference from 3-point range, so I'd discourage giving them an easy time there as well.
2) Make free throws. We only shot 56% from the line today, and UT averages 71%. 'Nuff said.
3) Do not let Meighan Simmons or Isabelle Harrison get hot. Our victory in Knoxville was definitely helped by holding Simmons to 80% of her average points per game, but Harris more than picked up the slack. They rank 6th and 17th in the conference respectfully, and if they get confident it could get ugly.
I know the hearts of the BBN are tender this weekend after watching our beloved Cats go down in Gainesville to a very good Florida team. To those mourning fans I say: nothing brings solace like watching a good Border War battle where the Cats emerge victorious.
Until 3:30, Cat fans - GO BIG BLUE!