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In the 2009 edition of the “battle of ferocious felines”, the Kentucky Wildcats claimed sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference with what most would call an ugly win. Prior to the game Coach Gillispie and his players warned us that Auburn would be a difficult match up for the Cats and even went as far as to compare them to, gulp, VMI. If that doesn’t nauseate you something is wrong. Unlike the aforementioned school, Auburn wasn’t necessarily to blame for most of the turnovers the Cats committed. Kentucky at times seemed to be recreating a Three Stooges episode with a basketball as they dribbled the ball of their own feet and legs and passed the ball to no one in particular. They must have overheard one of my “you need to learn to share” speeches I gave to my three-year-old son, but unfortunately they actually listened. The Cats managed to overcome 13 first half turnovers and a slow start to take a 34-33 lead at the half. Patrick Patterson had 12 rebounds in the first half alone and made a tremendous assist to Ramon Harris for a lay-up at the buzzer to give the Cats the lead.
The Cats came out of the locker room on fire with Jodie Meeks connecting on two straight threes and Perry Stevenson added a thunderous dunk on a fast break. Patterson said after the game that Coach Gillispie gave the team a good speech during halftime that helped motivate the team. Also, in what is a surprising revelation, Patterson stated that Gillispie is very good at fiery speeches. Who knew? Unfortunately the turnovers continued and Auburn was able to take the lead at 48-46 with just under 10 minutes to play. Kentucky then went on a run because of increased defensive pressure to take the lead for good. Kentucky holds on for the win 73-64.
Honestly, this game was not the Cats best performance. The team committed entirely too many turnovers, self inflicted ones at that, and again struggled to get going early in the game. Gillispie himself lamented the fact that he was unable to get much help from the bench, “That was why we played so few guys tonight, because those are the guys that communicate and execute the best defensive. I was very concerned because it seemed that every time that we substituted they would make a shot immediately.” Michael Porter struggled with turnovers for the first time in a long time, but his normal replacement DeAndre Liggins refuses to fight through a screen and continues to be a defensive liability. But let’s not focus on the negative, a win is a win is a win.
Once again the trio of Meeks, Patterson, and Stevenson lead the Kentucky offensive attack, scoring 65 of the team’s 73 points. Meeks had led the team with 31 points and as Gillispie stated, “Pat was a beast offensively and defensively.” Patterson finished the night with 21 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks even though his finger is obviously affecting his shot. Just another day at the office for the big man from West Virginia.
The Cats now travel to Alabama to begin a two game road trip on Saturday against the Crimson Tide. They will do so knowing that they are the lone undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference. Hopefully the Cats can wrap up that ridiculous looking elephant mascot with the rolls of toilet paper the crowd will be carrying as they scream “Roll Tide.” I think the Cats prevail 82-70.