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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: ‘Cats vs. Purple Aces Edition

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The Evansville Purple Aces, who’s second-year coach is UK legend Walter McCarty, face the newly #1 Wildcats tonight. Can Walter’s name ever be mentioned without remembering the Mardi Gras Miracle? We think not...

2017 Las Vegas Summer League - Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

Tonight, the Wildcats welcome Evansville from the Missouri Valley Conference into Rupp Arena for an early-season contest. The Purple Aces are coached by none other than 1996 UK legend Walter McCarty in his second year as a Division I basketball coach. My most unforgettable Walter McCarty memory was the Mardi Gras Miracle, the 1994 regular-season game February 15th at LSU where Kentucky came back from 31 points down with 15:30 remaining. Did I mention that the game was in Baton Rouge?

This is one of those non-Elite Eight, non-Final Four, non-Louisville games that I will never forget to my dying day. It has been deemed for years, almost to consensus, as the greatest comeback in the history of sport. It was one of those games that didn’t mean much until it was over.

Walter McCarty scored 23 points in that game, most of them coming in the second half. He also hit the three heard ‘round the world, when his jumper from the left corner put Kentucky ahead at last. His iconic run down the left baseline is the stuff of basketball legend. Re-live the highlights with me:

Walter went on to play in the NBA for a decade, playing for the Knicks, Celtics, Suns and Clippers. In 2007 he learned coaching at the knee of Rick Pitino in Louisville, coached for eight years in the NBA as an assistant for Indiana and Boston, finally winning the Evansville job last season.

The Purple Aces had a tough 2018-19 going 11-21. They gave Ja Morant’s Murray team a tough go, losing by a basket, but for the most part, last season was what we generously term a “rebuilding year” for Evansville.

The good news for Evansville is that they return a good number of their players from last season, including their best player KJ Riley and starting forward John Hall. The Purple Aces figure to be much tougher this year — KenPom figures them almost 60 spots better, from 227 to 169 even in the early season. They favor a wide open, very fast-paced style reminiscent of Rick Pitino’s early teams. Surprised?

I always enjoy seeing old friends like Walter come back to Rupp Arena, especially at the beginning of a promising coaching career. I’ll be pulling for him, but not in this one. I expect the Wildcats to take care of business and move on with their undefeated ways.

Tweet of the Morning

Yer basic passive-aggressive drag right there. Tennessee fans deserve it. And:

Aaand for the trifecta!

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Does anyone but me think about Derek Rose when reading this story?

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