Injuries not enough to stop ‘determined’ Cats

Column by Jonathan Smith

ATHENS, Ga. — With 8:44 left in the first half of UK’s game against Georgia, Ramel Bradley went flying to the floor after getting tangled up with the Bulldogs’ Dave Bliss.

The foul sent Bradley to the locker room with a gash on his chin and a concussion. But, naturally, Bradley wanted to go back in the game.

To assess the health of UK’s iron-man guard, the trainers asked Bradley to recite the months of the year in reverse order. That’s not quite as hard as turning an about-face on the alphabet, but it proved too rough for “Smooth.”

“He got mixed up,” head coach Billy Gillispie told a group of reporters after the game that left them, like the fall left Bradley, in stitches.

Bradley wouldn’t re-enter the game. He came out onto the court to start the second half, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play. He played only 11 minutes.

Bradley’s absence wasn’t the only problem the Cats had to overcome Saturday. UK had to withstand an injury to senior guard Joe Crawford and had to get over the mental hump of winning its first road game of the season.

The Cats did all that Saturday, beating Georgia 63-58, and in the process appeared to give UK fans something to think about for the team’s final 10 games: What can’t UK do the rest of the season?

If you would have told any UK follower before the game that Bradley would only play 11 minutes, no one in their right mind would have predicted a Cats win.

In the six games leading into the Georgia game, Bradley had sat out only one minute. Keep in mind that two of those games went into overtime too.

Against Georgia, he was effective once again, dishing out three assists, but he didn’t score.

Bradley’s injury seemed to severely deplete the Cats. Crawford’s cramps seemed to doom them.

Crawford didn’t practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, and he didn’t practice between the Tennessee and South Carolina games. He even missed the USC game because of the lingering plantar fasciitis injury in his foot. Crawford was already beat up going into the game, then the cramps came in the second half.

Crawford went out of the game with 4:28 left and didn’t return. He was in complete control during the game, scoring 26 points. What’s more, he didn’t force the action like he’s done so many times in the past.

So how did UK do it in the last five minutes without their two senior leaders?

One reason was because of the great reserve play from Derrick Jasper and Michael Porter. They only scored a combined six points in 53 minutes of play, but they had just two turnovers. That number is much more important.

Ramon Harris was also great for UK. He had by far his best game as a Cat. He scored nine points, and his best play came late when he ran and scored on a beautiful backdoor cut.

None of those players are focal points of offense or defense right now for the Cats, but they showed, maybe for the first time all season, that they can be viable contributors to the team.

“We’ve got other people on the team, role players on the team that can step up at any time,” said freshman forward Patrick Patterson, who was fantastic again with 16 points and six rebounds.

Gillispie acknowledged all of that after the game, but he said the game was won for a different reason.

“I really think you can talk about offense, I think you can talk about defense, I think you can talk about all of those things that show up on the stat sheet,” Gillispie said, “but the thing that’s winning games for us right now is heart, determination and togetherness.”

Who would have thought that 10, six or even three games ago? No one.

Now it’s hard to imagine that results like this one are going to stop anytime soon.

Jonathan Smith is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]