Cats should never judge book by cover

Aaron Linn is the best player on Gardner-Webb University’s basketball team. He averages a team leading 18.6 points per game, and he scored 15 last night against UK.

You know where Linn perfected those moves? The Johnson Center.

Every person who’s ever played ball at the Johnson Center knows who Linn is. You’ve seen him plenty of times.

He’s the dude at the JC with the funny shot, the funny socks and the mouth piece. But by the end of the game, he’s dropped 11 of his team’s 15 points on your team because you thought it would be smart to make your team’s third-best player guard him.

That’s not exactly the case. But the moral of the story is this: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Or a Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldog by the release and spin of his jump shot.

That’s what the Cats did, and it cost them. Gardner-Webb went into Rupp Arena and beat the Cats 84-68 for its first-ever win against either a Southeastern Conference team or a top-25 team.

After suffering such an embarrassing defeat, the Cats should do two things: Watch the tape, and then watch it again. Because UK could learn a lot from Gardner-Webb.

First off, the Cats could learn a lesson in getting off to a good start.

Gardner-Webb jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Cats. During that stretch, UK turned the ball over four times, and the Runnin’ Bulldogs hit two 3-point baskets.

They could also learn a lesson in fighting through adversity.

Granted, the Cats battled back from a huge early hole to make it 34-27. But guess who scored the next seven points? Gardner-Webb, two coming from Linn on a 10-foot fade away baseline jumper as the halftime buzzer went off.

After that, the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ lead fluctuated the entire night, but every time the Rupp Arena crowd got loud, Gardner-Webb quieted it with a big play on offense or a big rebound on defense.

UK could also learn a lesson or two in toughness.

Midway through the first half, UK sophomore forward Perry Stevenson gave Gardner-Webb’s Nate Blank a bloody nose with an elbow to the face.

Blank fell to the floor, but soon recovered and hopped up ready to fight Stevenson. His teammates held him back, and eventually he was taken to the locker room to repair the wound.

On his way out, Stevenson looked over in Blank’s direction with a very apologetic look on his face. Why would you want to apologize to a guy who wants to return the bloody nose, and add in a split lip and a black eye?

At the time, UK was down 17-4. And Stevenson wanted to apologize. For what? Helping the Cats get one more rebound than a Gardner-Webb team whose tallest starter is 6-foot-8.

The play pretty much summed up the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ performance. They knew that if they were going to walk out of Rupp Arena with a win, they were going to have to put up a heck of a fight.

And that’s what they did. Because of it, they’ll be playing in Madison Square Garden next week.

That’s just how the officials of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer drew it up — Gardner in the Garden.

They didn’t want the Cats anyway. They don’t play enough like Gardner-Webb.

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