TIME TO START A NEW STREAK
As I write this week's blog, the weather outside is bordering on ridiculous for December. It feels almost as warm in Birmingham today as it did in Tampa over the weekend. That will be my only reference to the trip to USF. The Blazers will have to start a new winning streak after the five-game roll came to an end, and wouldn't it be nice to start a new run at the expense of this Saturday's opponent, The Big Blue?
UAB and Kentucky have met only four times, but what a series it has been. The first meeting came back in December of 1980, a 61-53 win for the Cats in Lexington. The Blazers didn't have to wait long for payback. About three months later, Gene Bartow's bunch won the Sun Belt title and made the short drive to Tuscaloosa for the NCAA Tournament. After disposing of Western Kentucky in the first round, the Blazers bounced the second-seeded Wildcats from the Big Dance on the way to the Sweet 16 with a 69-62 victory at then-Memorial Coliseum.
The next two meetings also came in the NCAA Tournament. Who can forget the thrilling 76-75 win over Kentucky in 2004? The Blazers upset the top-seeded Kitties in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to Mo Finley's clutch basket in the waning seconds. I remember, vividly, driving back from Athens, Georgia, and listening to the second-round game on the NCAA's radio network. Having grown up in the South, enjoying basketball, and watching UK hand out regular beatings to just about everyone, it sure was nice to see the Green and Gold come out on top.
Kentucky got a measure of revenge two years later in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 69-64, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but it's amazing to see how close all four games have been, with three coming on college basketball's grandest stage.
This Saturday's meeting won't have the "playoff feel" of an NCAA Tournament game, but you better believe it will be intense. Both teams are in need of a good performance and a quality win after struggling last weekend. It will be fun to call a game at Freedom Hall in Louisville. I've had the good fortune of seeing a game and working a game at Rupp Arena, so it will be nice to add Freedom Hall to my own personal "list." For the fans not making the trip to the Commonwealth, tip time is 1 PM on ESPN, and pre-game on the Blazers ISP Sports Network is set for 12:30 PM.
It's a great tradition at UK, but I've always thought "My Old Kentucky Home" sounded sad...let's hope the Big Blue faithful will be forced to sing it that way on Saturday.
Have a great week, and GO BLAZERS!!!