Absolute shocker from Lexington tonight: Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68.
Is it safe to say that Billy Gillispie’s honeymoon at Kentucky is already over? Before we can even start talking about what happened there tonight (since we didn’t see it! thanks again, ESPNU), we should give a little historical perspective.
Consider that UK was a 25.5 point favorite and lost by 16 points for a spread difference of 41.5 pts. We know that Stanford was a 39 point underdog vs. USC in football when the Cardinal won 24-23 this year, but at least those teams are in the same conference, right? Honestly, we can’t remember another spread reversal quite so large in basketball.
Then consider that Gardner-Webb (9-21 in 06-07) was by all objective measures one of the worst teams in America last year (#279 Pomeroy; #265 RPI; #300 Sagarin), and was picked to finish near-last in the Atlantic Sun among its NCAA-eligible teams. The Bulldogs from Boiling Springs, NC, lost to UNC by 53, Georgia by 29, Wisconsin by 58 and Wake Forest by 32 pts last season, and its entire conference was 0-34 as a whole against BCS teams in 06-07.
Coach Gillispie Has Bigger Problems Now than His Sordid Past
How could this have possibly happened?
Folks, Gardner-Webb never trailed.
Gardner-Webb scored the game’s first 14 points, led by as much as 16 and took a 38-27 lead at intermission. The Runnin’ (and thinkin’) Bulldogs played with one purpose and repeatedly got good scoring opportunities. Backdoor cuts nullified UK’s pressure defense. Plain scrappiness netted other scoreboard rewards. At times, the Cats looked like the same disjointed team that so frustrated former coach Tubby Smith and the fans in recent seasons.
Gardner-Webb took immediate charge of the game. Grayson Flittner, a 6-foot native of Sharpsville, Ind., who walked on the Gardner-Webb team because his girlfriend played on the women’s team, scored 22 points. He hit a pair of three-pointers in the 14-0 run. Thomas Sanders, who was home schooled until college and came to Gardner-Webb through an “Availables Game” designated for unsigned junior college players, added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Kentucky responded with too many solo flights of fancy. None were more ugly than Joe Crawford’s leaning, one-hand flip shot [airball] that evoked thoughts of a YMCA pickup game.
(Sidenote: Grayson Flittner – isn’t he the Professor from And1?)
All that gladhanding and backslapping that Coach Gillispie has been getting in the Bluegrass State for the past seven months is over – the good-time wagon has lost a wheel and the pioneers are pissed. As far as we can tell, the much-maligned Tubby Smith’s worst loss in ten seasons at the helm of UK was to Western Kentucky at home in 2001-02, and WKU made the NCAAs as a #14 seed that year. What must ole Ten-loss Tubby be thinking right now? Obviously, G-W is far beneath WKU in historical status considering they just joined D1 in 2000. This is probably UK’s worst loss in almost twenty years, dating back to a 1989 home loss against SW Louisiana in the old UKIT during Rick Pitino’s first year at the helm – of course, he was playing with essentially a bunch of walk-ons, some chewing gum and silly putty that year, so that loss was none too surprising.
After the game, Gillispie had this to say:
You can’t just show up on the court and think you’re going to beat somebody because you wear a certain jersey. We didn’t play like a hunter tonight.
Well, Coach, UK fans were already booing tonight, and with good reason. You’re going to have to figure out how to become Daniel Boone in a hurry, or things could get very ugly for you there.
For a tough-love assessment of this upset from a fan’s perspective, A Sea of Blue gives it to Gillispie for his lack of um, coaching logic in this game.