clock menu more-arrow no yes

It is strange to think that a game as ugly, and against such a debilitated team as we played Saturday could be the defining moment of a season, but I believe it is so.  If you were like me, when Ramel Bradley went down midway through the first half, you began to despair a little.  This Kentucky team is like no other in my memory in the amount of injuries it has suffered.  Oh, we have seen injuries before, but not like this.  Not so many.  Not so seemingly chronic and all at once.  When Joe Crawford began to cramp, I think I went just a little mad.  "This just can't be right," I thought.  "No team deserves this."

They say that God will never place an obstacle in your path that you don't have the ability to overcome, and this game would seem to be proof of that.  Saturday, the Wildcats refused to be sucked into the abyss of self-pity, even if many fans undoubtedly impinged upon that regrettable event horizon.  It seems that Billy Gillispie has tapped something in this group that we all knew existed, but feared we would never see.  Today, and over the past two weeks, this team has become worthy of the name "Wildcat."  What incredible guts they showed in defeating a determined and relentless Georgia team despite the fact that three of Kenucky's best players were lost to injury at crunch time.

There are things that every Kentucky fan has in common, and one of those things is a deep love of young men who go out and leave everything on the floor.  We expect to win, but we also know that sometimes, despite the most valiant of efforts, we don't.  But the ones that really tug at our heartstrings are the games that we have no business winning, when the odds are just too great and circumstances too dire, and yet somehow we find a way through to victory.  This game was just such a time, and I feel confident that the Big Blue Nation is once again falling in love with their Wildcats.  It is a wonderful thing to feel, and a wonderful thing to see.

I have been critical in the past of Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford, and questioned their effort and desire to wear the blue and white.  All those criticisms and questions have now been answered, emphatically.  Bradley and Crawford have willed this team to victory four out of six times in this SEC season, and left a trail of blood, sweat, tears and flesh along the way.  Today, after Bradley went down as hard as any player I have ever seen, Joe Crawford and Patrick Patterson took the injured Wildcats on their back and dragged them across the finish line.  Rarely have I seen such determined leadership on the court.  These young men have taken a destiny-blasted season, apparently without hope after the non-conference schedule, and set about transforming it into one of the great stories of Wildcat lore, the kind that we never get tired of telling.

After two years of what seemed to me like treading water, of cookie-cutter games that seemed to never create much hope for the future, this group has found a way to reach our souls in a way that the more successful teams of the last two years never could.  There is nothing left to doubt in the hearts of these Wildcats, because they are sacrificing themselves, body and soul, for Kentucky basketball.  It is utterly inspirational, and I haven't looked forward to Kentucky games this much since the days of the Suffocats.  At this exact moment in time, I wish this season could go on forever, and I could watch this team bring it like they did today over and over again.  Yes, they sometimes don't look like a very good team, but every time either an opponent or uncontrollable circumstances punches them in the gut yet again, they stand straight back up and deliver all they have, and all they are.  To me, that is what a Wildcat does, and what I have seen out of this team in the last six games has made me very proud to be a fan.

There are simply too many accolades to hand out today.  Patrick Patterson's extraordinary leadership at the end of the game.  Joe Crawford's "I will play if I have to crawl on all fours like a beast" pathos.  Ramel Bradley sneaking into the second half layup line with a concussion.  Perry Stevenson fighting for every inch over stronger players and hitting huge free throws.  Ramon Harris' steely determination and effort.  Michael Porter's fearless play.  Derrick Jasper's quiet, confident leadership.  The entire team, so turnover prone this year, giving the ball up a paltry 8 times.  So many great things to say, and only rough words to say them with.   Would that I had the grace in my keyboard to do them justice, but alas.

This game, especially taken in combination with our previous five SEC games, has defined this team for me.  This is a team that will take on all comers, whatever the circumstances, and the Devil take the odds.  I don't know how Gillispie has managed to drag such heart out of this group, and I really don't care.  At this point, I don't even care about injuries anymore, because quite frankly, this team and these young men have taken it on the chin all season, and just refuse to let it keep them down.  It has been long since we have seen this much grit out of a Kentucky team, and it sure is great to have it back.  If you had told me this is where we would be back in November, I would have accused you, at minimum, of irrational optimism.  Despite the injuries, the difficulties adjusting to the new coach, and obstacle after obstacle, we find ourselves today only one and a half games out of the lead in the SEC East.

Celebrate this team, Wildcat fans.  They are doing what all teams should do -- giving us a reason to cheer louder with every passing game, and doing it in a way that we can all be proud of.