Sunday gave UK Hoops fans some of their highest highs and lowest lows of the season. After an incredible start had the Cats leading by 3 - on the road in front of 17,000 Gamecocks fans - the second half was a battle that spilled actual blood when Janee Thompson took an awkward tumble that resulted in a dislocated ankle and broken fibular. The nightmare turned surreal when Coach Matthew Mitchell lost his head and was ejected from the game. Such a promising start, such an awful finish.
There's no easy way to say this: Janee is irreplaceable. I feel confident that the rest of the squad will step up and try their absolute best to win for their fallen teammate, but you cannot replace an experienced junior who's averaging 10 points a game and leads the team in assists. On top of all that talent, Janee was a leader for this team and one the squad could count on to guide them through the hard moments. Our beloved Fierce (hat tip - CaptCatFan) will be very very missed, both by her team and by the fans who have come to adore her. Janee, I hope you know that everyone at ASoB has you in their thoughts and wishes you a speedy and successful recovery.
So, where do we go from here? Back to Lexington - there's no where like home! - and prepping for the Gators. The unranked Gators. The 9-8 Gators who were a serious thorn in our sides last year, taking the home and home series from our Cats. Happily we burned that Gator monkey in the SECT but I always say nothing makes me happier after a hard loss than beating the bejeezus out of the next team in our path.
Not having watched any Gator ball this year I can't talk to their strengths and weaknesses but can talk to their results. The Gators have zero wins against ranked teams and one spectacular loss, with a 26 point beating at the hands of arch-rival FSU. Interestingly, the Gators beat us in every offensive stat (stop me if you've heard this one before). Florida has higher field shooting (41% to our 40%), three point shooting (31% to our 28%) and free throw shooting stats (71% to 64%). HOWEVER, their points per game are noticeably lower at 67 to the Cats 77.
In short, they're selective on their shooting and don't waste a lot of attempts. Hopefully the Cats' defense can come into play here as we noticeably out-rebound (41.7 pg vs 39.2) and out-block (77 vs 59) the swamp lizards.
The biggest question UK faces at this point is how do they come back? Only the team and Matthew Mitchell can answer that. I hope you'll tune in to see the story continue.
Tipoff is at 7 PM EST on the SEC Network, and can also be viewed on ESPN3 and the SECN+. Or you can listen in to 630 WLAP and hear ASoB favorite Neil Price calling all the action. (Yours truly will be a little late, as I'm helping with a local basketball tournament but should be on for the second half. Keep it rowdy, ya'all!)
Until gametime, Cat fans - GO BIG BLUE!