‘Cats survive UGA at Stegeman, Hank Gathers, Etc.
Published on Wednesday, 3/4/15, at 1:18 p.m. Eastern.
I was at Stegeman Coliseum on that March night in 2003. Georgia had a team capable of going to the Final Four for the first time since 1983 when the Bulldogs lost to a team coached by Jim Valvano at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Because of a scumbag named Tony Cole, the 2003 UGA squad was on the verge of falling apart just when it appeared to be peaking. ESPN had purposely timed a story it had been holding for months to be aired just as Georgia was to host Kentucky and Florida in its last two regular-season home games.
The story by Jeremy Schaap would be the beginning of the end for Jim Harrick in Athens. The head coach who had won the national title at UCLA in 1995 was just getting things rolling at UGA.
Before UGA would take on Florida, Harrick would ignorantly grant an interview with Dick Vitale that would open Sports Center for the next 24 hours. And Harrick looked and sounded guilty as sin.
But before that interview went viral, the Bulldogs and the Gators had business to take care of on the court at Stegeman. It was a great game, back and forth, with the crowd rocking at a fevered pitch for 40 minutes.
In the final minute with Georgia leading by one, Ezra Williams hit a deep 3-ball from the right wing to put the game on ice. As Dad and I walked back to the car, we discussed what a shame it would be if the off-the-court nonsense kept Ezra, Chris Daniels, the Hayes Brothers and Damien Wilkins out of the NCAA Tournament.
Indeed, it did because of an unfathomable decision by Dr. Michael Adams and Vince Dooley. I’ve covered this topic many times over at VI and Ezra actually reached out to me recently, and I plan on doing a lengthy piece on that ’03 squad that was kept out of the Tournament here soon.
But my point is this: Stegeman hasn’t been electric like that night in ’03 against UF until last night. Georgia was taking on unbeaten and top-ranked Kentucky and the crowd was rocking from the opening jump. The Bulldogs led nearly the entire second half, by as many as nine, before UK’s size and strength became too much.
UGA didn’t help itself by missing three straight front ends of one-and-one opportunities. The ‘Cats would win by a 72-64 count, but Mark Fox’s team took the cash as a 9.5-point home underdog. For those who took UK -6 at halftime when the game was tied, that was a winner.
UK can improve to 31-0 if it can beat Florida at home this weekend.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–You can go to VegasInsider.com to check out my Notre Dame at Louisville preview along with plenty of Bonus Nuggets.
—Great piece on Hank Gathers from ESPN’s Myron Medcalf. More on Gathers below…
–Miami will be without Angel Rodriguez, its starting point guard, second-leading scorer and top assists and steals man, and Sheldon McClellan in tonight’s crucial bubble battle at Pittsburgh. The line has gone from three to five in favor of the Panthers.
–Kansas veteran power forward Perry Ellis (14.2 points per game, 7.0 RPG) injured his knee in his team’s overtime win over West Va. last night. He’s expected to be back for the Big 12 Tournament.
–Utah St. has won six in a row both SU and ATS. The ‘over’ is on a 7-0 run for the Aggies, who are 6.5-point underdogs tonight at Wyoming.
–The ‘over’ has cashed in six straight for Wyoming. The Cowboys, who are just 4-9 ATS at home, have seen the ‘over’ hit in seven of their eight home games with a total. Tonight’s tally for Utah St. at Wyoming: 120.
–The ‘under’ is 12-4 in Boise St.’s last 16 games.
–Tennessee has lost five in a row and nine of its last 11 going into Baton Rouge tonight to face LSU. The Tigers have won three in a row both SU and ATS, and they are 6-1 ATS in their last seven outings.
–Dayton is all alone atop the A-10 standing after winning and covering at home last night vs. Rhode Island.
–Texas A&M collected a wild and improbable backdoor cover in a four-point loss at Florida last night. The Aggies were 4.5 or five-point underdogs. They trailed by 16 late in the second half, yet covered because the Gators are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams I’ve ever seen in college hoops.
–UF’s Michael Frazier (high-ankle sprain) missed his seventh straight game.
–Can’t believe it was 25 years ago today that Hank Gathers passed away. That 1990 LMU team remains my favorite (not named the Florida Gators) in NCAA Tournament history. Bo Kimble’s 45 points against New Mexico St. in the first round of that late-night game called by Greg Gumbel and Quinn Buckner. Jeff Fryer’s 11 makes from 3-point land in the second round on that Sunday afternoon when the Lions dealt Michigan (the defending national champs who brought back Loy Vaught, Rumeal Robinson, Terry Mills and Sean Higgins) a ruthless pimpslap. The nail-biting win over Alabama (the best game Wimp Sanderson ever coached) when Robert Horry’s fadeaway with two seconds left fell off the mark. And then UNLV, the team nobody had a chance in hell of beating. What a 1990 Tournament that was. You had Tate George’s buzzer beater to beat Clemson and Cliff Ellis, Dale Davis and Elden Campbell in the Meadowlands in the Sweet 16. Two days later at the same venue, Christian Laettner’s double-pump leaner at the buzzer clipped the Huskies. There was the second-round game in Knoxville, where Ga. Tech beat LSU (and Chris Jackson, Stanley Roberts, Vernel ‘Band-Aid’ Singleton and some dude named Shaq) in overtime thanks to Dennis Scott’s wild 3-point explosion. Then at the Superdome in the Sweet 16, Lethal Weapon III moved on thanks to Kenny Anderson’s buzzer beater that forced overtime in a win over a top-seeded Michigan St. squad led by Steve Smith.