Madness gives UK fans a break from world’s problems


Shane Shackleford

By Shane Shackleford, Sports Columnist

It’s nice to be a Kentucky basketball fan

To say it was an eventful early season for Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball at the University of Kentucky would be a slight understatement.

The unofficial opening of the season took place on Friday night with Big Blue Madness from the historic Memorial Coliseum with both squads participating in the tradition.

Even though it was different in that Madness was moved from Rupp Arena and it had no public attendance, it was still blue and white, glitz and glam, ESPN coverage, and all the bells and whistles we have come to associate with Kentucky basketball.

With COVID-19 raging and a lot of sad and tough news in the last couple of days, Madness at least for a little while gave the Commonwealth and fans across the nation a small respite.

The UK men’s team enters this season ranked number 10 in the country with a blend of veteran transfers and heralded freshmen looking to make their mark on the program.  If they can do so, they will join an elite company.

In the last 11 years of the John Calipari era, Kentucky has really asserted its dominance highlighted by three more Wildcats that were selected in the 2020 NBA Draft: Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, and Nick Richards. UK has produced 41 NBA Draft picks, 31 first-rounders, 21 lottery selections, and three No. 1 picks.

On Friday, CBS Sports christened the Kentucky Wildcats “the Greatest College Basketball Program Ever.” Yeah, that’s right. EVER.

Using a data-driven formula from a variety of sources, the Cats ranked first in front of fellow bluebloods North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, and Kansas.  That’s fun, right BBN?

For the UK women, it’s been a little more topsy turvy, first with the news of the retirement of coach Matthew Mitchell, who built the Kentucky women’s program into a national program in its own right.  The new head coach, Kyra Elzy, has a tremendous resume and will no doubt lead the team well.

The Cats will open at number 11 nationally and feature it’s first preseason All-American in junior forward Rhyne Howard and a deep, talented team looking to make noise on the national as well as SEC scale.  That’s good stuff, right?

So when the Cats open play next week ( the women on Wednesday afternoon, the men on Wednesday night) and you need to think about something a little positive, think about this maybe:

Any way you cut it, it’s really is nice to be a Kentucky basketball fan.


Any Kentuckian will tell you to win a horse race or have them work on the farm, you better have the thoroughbreds to get you to the finish line and a stable of horses to get the job done.

In the case of the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Crimson Tide had both the thoroughbreds and the stable to win the game, blasting the Wildcats 63-3.

Kentucky (3-5) entered the matchup with the top-ranked Crimson Tide missing 10 players from its roster, including All-American punter Max Duffy and leading rusher Chris Rodriguez, leaving UK shorthanded before the opening kickoff.

The Cats hung around for the first quarter, only trailing 7-3 at the end of the frame and driving deep in Bama territory before attempting a field goal.  The snap was high and the Cats recovered the ball at midfield.

That’s all the window the Tide (7-0) needed, marching the ball down the field in short order and taking a 14-3 lead.  Alabama would go on to score touchdowns on seven of its next nine possessions to take a commanding 56-3 lead.

The Cats will be looking to heal up quickly next week as they will face SEC East leader Florida Saturday.

Below is the game summary, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Information

  • Kentucky is 3-5 and Alabama is 7-0, all within the Southeastern Conference.

  • Alabama leads the series, 38-2-1, and has won seven in a row.

  • Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats play at Florida on Saturday, Nov. 28, at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN.

    • Note that the SEC can change each week’s schedule until Monday at 9 p.m.

Team notes

  • Kentucky was without five starters for the game: LB Jamin Davis, P Max Duffy, OG Luke Fortner, TE Justin Rigg and RB Chris Rodriguez Jr.

  • The Wildcats intercepted their 12th pass of the season, second-most in the SEC. The Cats entered the game third in the nation in INTs.

Player notes

·      UK’s game captain was senior nose guard Quinton Bohanna.

·      Junior offensive tackle Darian Kinnard wore uniform No. 65 in honor of offensive line coach John Schlarman, who died Nov. 12 after a two-year battle with cancer.

·      Senior quarterback Terry Wilson completed 10 of 19 passes for 120 yards and an interception. He rushed five times for five yards.

  • Has 930 career rushing yards, needs 70 to become the 40th player in school history to reach 1,000 rushing yards.

  • Has 3,081 career passing yards, becoming the 14th player in school history to reach 3,000 passing yards.

  • He had a streak of 118 consecutive passes without an interception snapped in the third quarter.

·      Senior running back A.J. Rose gained 68 yards on 10 carries for 6.8 yards per rush.

  • Rose now has 1,664 career rushing yards, passing Steve Campassi for 18th place in school history. He’s now tied with Bill Leskovar (1949-50) for 17th.

·      Sophomore running back Kavosiey Smoke rushed nine times for 26 yards.

  • Smoke wore uniform No. 22 today in honor of teammate Chris Oats, who is dealing with a serious medical condition.

·      Senior wide receiver Josh Ali caught a team-high four passes for a team-best 52 yards.

  • Ali has caught a pass in nine consecutive games.

·      Sophomore tight end Keaton Upshaw caught three passes for 44 yards.

  • The receptions and yards both are career-highs for him.

·      Junior wide receiver Isaiah Epps caught two passes for 24 yards.

·      Sophomore defensive back Kelvin Joseph intercepted a pass in the third quarter.

  • Joseph now has four interceptions this season. He entered the game leading both the SEC and nation in interceptions.

·      Redshirt freshman linebacker J.J. Weaver had three tackles, including a TFL.

  • He leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss.

·      Senior linebacker Boogie Watson totaled five tackles, including 2.0 for loss and a sack.

  • Watson has 18 career sacks, passing Jeremy Jarmon’s 17.5 for fifth place in school history. He needs one to tie Dennis Johnson (1998-2001) for fourth.

·      Playing in his second collegiate game, senior punter Colin Goodfellow punted seven times for 48.3 yards per kick.

  • He nailed a career-long 55-yarder and placed two inside the 20.