In a game that was as surreal as any event I have ever attended, the Cats fell to Georgia in overtime thanks to a prayer by Zac Swansey with just under 2 seconds to go. The Bulldogs controlled the glass all day and were able to counteract Kentucky’s solid defense by hitting the glass and getting multiple second chances. However at the end it wasnt a rebound, but a shot by a reserve on the run that brought the Cats down. After the game, Billy Gillispie praised the team’s efforts but also gave a ton of credit to Georgia, saying that both teams played with passion, but Georgia hit the big shot to win. Gillispie in his postgame press conference said that if he had it all to do over again, they would play the same defense and move towards the same shot. Knowing who was on the court and what the potential plays were, you likely would hope that Swansey would try and go the length of the floor and take that shot….and he did. The problem was that this time, he made it.
A few notes…
— The arena had about 1200-1500 people in by the time the game got going. Each school was allotted 500 tickets for donors and administration folks and then some Kentucky fans were able to get some of the tickets from the allotments of other schools….thus making the crowd approximately 1000 Kentucky and 150-200 Georgia. The band and the cheerleaders were doing their thing, but ultimately the game did have an AAU type feel. There were sights that you simply would not see normally….in the media section (which was the first five rows of the normal seats), you had Bill Raftery and Verne Lundquist just hanging out and watching the game next to fans in blue hair. The gym was empty, but it was also loud….one of the strangest environments that I have ever been in, but one that in its own odd way, was memorable.
— The Seniors seemed devastated at the end. Their comments at the press conference were uncharacteristically short and the players were as low as I have seen them. The feeling was also felt in the locker room, where Ramon Harris told me, “I just hate this for the Seniors. We all wanted so badly to help them win this SEC title. It hurts me for them.”
— Billy Gillispie handled the post-game press conference well and had some interesting things to say. First, he said that he thought the loss would have “no effect” on the Cats’ tournament chances. He explained his decision to have Perry Stevenson block the free throw by saying that he believed the rule to be that the free throw would count and they would get the ball down three. He said he wasnt aware of the automatic technical rule. He did however also show some frustration at random questions asked by the media. When one reporter asked what his “initial thoughts were of Catlanta”, Billy looked at the group and said that while it was a talented group, he “didnt know about that question.” He also visibly rolled his eyes when Joe Crawford was asked if being picked 2nd team All-SEC had motivated him for this game….to be fair, a really bad question.
— Gillispie was asked about Albert Jackson’s knockdown of Ramel Bradley and whether he had hoped for a foul call. Gillispie paused and said with his trademark smile, “Yeah I guess you could say “hoped”.”
— Finally, one word about the way this all played out today. In his press conference Gillispie praised the SEC for how the ultimate decisions were made. The Cats were informed at 2 am they would play at 12 and Gillispie said he was glad to see that “finances” didnt make the decision, but rather safety was the ultimate concern. The process did hurt the UK fans who came here and I understand their frustration. But with the Atlanta police saying they didnt want people camped out and waiting in mass at Georgia Tech, I am not sure the SEC had any other choice. The Georgia Dome was found to be potentially unsafe and if the games were going to go on, this was really the only way it could happen, while allowing the SEC to maintain its automatic bid. Bottom line….the Cats lost today, but it wasnt because of the decision. Georgia may lose tonight because of the “Two games in one day” thing, but for the day game, both teams generally were in the same situation. Once the Georgia Dome was deemed to be potentially unsafe, this was the only resolution that worked. Gillispie said that it was the best of a number of bad choices and noted that to this team, will play anytime, anywhere. Great attitude and I think the team had that all day….the SEC did the best it could in a bad situation and all things considered, did a good job handling the unfortunate incident.
It has been some kind of 24 hours around here. I was up until 5 waiting for the final call by the conference and up a couple of hours later to get going for today. I am now going to nap…..and you can guarantee that the future Top 10 SEC moments….whenever they come…..will rank this one very high.
Here is the Billy Gillispie Post Game Press Conference: