[Moderated by Matt Jones]
And if ya don’t know, now ya know. (kentuckybasketball.tumblr.com)
Pinch yourself. Did you feel it? That little twinge of pain? Good. Now you can be absolutely sure that yesterday was real life for all of Big Blue Nation. And also, that’s probably the last bit of UK-basketball related pain you’ll feel in a long, long time (knock on wood).
One of my friends texted me last night and said, “Oh god. You’re living the Kentucky dream. Keep it going.” In a nutshell, yes. From the time I arrived on Limestone at 11 am with Ally Tucker, only to be greeted already by hundreds of blue-clad revelers, to the end of my night when I somehow found myself in a limo dropping me off at my house, March 31st had a dream-like, larger-than-real-life feel to it. Several times a friend or fellow fan could be heard commenting, “I’m going to be telling my grandkids about this.” Some even brought their grandkids with them to witness the crackling atmosphere firsthand.
This entire week, the Kentucky-Louisville game was the subject of a media frenzy unlike one our state has ever experienced. And luckily for everyone involved, the game and the fan experience lived up to all the hype. Surpassed it, even. It was Christmas, combined with Derby, on speed. My personal moment of absolute euphoria came when the final buzzer sounded and I had a slow-motion run towards Stone Cold Willow on Limestone, ending with me tackling on the street and then awkwardly holding his fathead for a few minutes while he posed for pictures.
This entire season, fans have been told, “This team is special. Enjoy it.” Yesterday showcased everything that’s special not just about this team, but about basketball in the state of Kentucky. One statistic in particular stood out to me: no Kentucky player took more than nine shots- a remarkable example of the unselfishness and brotherhood mentality that have defined this team all season.
Marquis Teague got things rolling with the first two baskets for the Wildcats, ending any lingering doubts about his ability to handle pressure in a big game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist bounced back (copyright John Calipari) from first half foul trouble to break a 49-49 tie with two straight buckets- one a twisting drive ending in an emphatic dunk. Shortly thereafter, Darius Miller hit a three-pointer and put the Cats back in control for good, a bucket so obviously game-ending that it earned an in-game hug from Coach Cal. Anthony Davis proved once again why he is the nation’s consensus Player of the Year (I never get tired of writing that), scoring 18 points to go along with 14 rebounds and 5 blocks- a typically outstanding outing for the single-browed freshman.
What was unusual about Davis last night was his post-game celebration. Generally, Davis maintains a humble demeanor to the press and fans, shrugging off accolades and deferring his success to his teammates. After the final buzzer sounded at the Dome, however, Davis could be heard shouting: “This is my stage. This is my stage.”
On Monday night, the Cats will return to the nation’s biggest stage for their final game of the season, against a Kansas team in a matchup that has almost as many compelling story lines as the Louisville game did. And BBN has absolutely no doubt about it: This is our stage.
*Editor’s note: Conflicting reports about whether Davis said “This is my s–t,” “This is my state,” or “This is my stage.” Davis claims he says “stage.” Any of them work.
@KristenGeilKSR. I’m giving up on any real responsibility for the next two days.
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