On, on, U of K, we are right for the fight today,
Hold that ball and hit that line;
Ev’ry Wildcat star will shine;
We’ll fight, fight, fight, for the blue and white
As we roll to that goal, Varsity,
And we’ll kick, pass and run, ’til the battle is won,
And we’ll bring home the victory.
The Big Blue Nation knows the words to that song by heart. The fans love to sing it at games. And when the Cats traveled to Gainesville on Saturday to face the Florida Gators, the team took those words to heart.
In a game where little went the Cats’ way in the 1st half, the Blue Faithful were concerned but not in a panic. Well, most were not in a panic as they remembered how Kentucky had been playing over the past few weeks. There had been slow starts that turned into dominating 2nd halves and that was the hope for this game.
But the 2nd half did not bring an immediate turnaround for the Cats. Going scoreless from the 18:59 mark until the 13:32 mark, Kentucky watched as the Gators went on a 9-0 and what was a 4-point halftime lead had now grown to 11 (42-31). Ashton Hagans and his lockdown defense? MIA. Jemarl Baker and his beautiful, pure 3-point shooting form? A goose egg on 4 attempts. Reid Travis and his dominance down low? Not happening.
At this point, it would have been easy for the Cats to hang their heads and just go through the motions until the clock ran out. They seemed out of sync, a bit confused, and nothing was working. Yes, that’s what they could have done.
Instead, PJ Washington gathered his teammates around him and seemingly barked some harsh words at them. Much like a couple of weeks ago when Hagans yelled at Keldon Johnson to “wake up!”, PJ’s talk had an incredible effect on the rest of the Cats. They went on a 10-0 run to draw within a single point of the Gators.
Still, nothing came easy for Kentucky this game and soon fell behind by 5 points (48-43). But maybe in the recesses of their minds, these Cats could hear the refrain “We’ll fight, fight, fight for the Blue & White…until the battle is won.” It certainly seemed that way as the Cats proceeded to go on a 14-0 run and left the Gators scratching their heads. How had a 5-point lead become a 9-point deficit?
After that run, it was a mere formality and the Cats ultimately walked out of the O-Dome with a 65-54 victory. Once again, Kentucky found a way to win and it didn’t look like their recent victories. So what have we learned these past 2 weeks?
These Cats have heart. They have hustle, determination, and an almost unyielding will to win. One game, it might be Reid Travis that beats you and the next, it might be Tyler Herro. Maybe Ashton Hagans will have a stretch during a game where he seems completely out of sorts, but Immanuel Quickley can come to the rescue. Maybe Herro is struggling offensively, so Keldon Johnson hits you with one daggar after another. Perhaps you try to shut down the guards and then PJ Washington leaves you in tears.
In short, this Wildcat team is filled with a diverse array of weapons. You might shut down one player, but you should be warned that another player is sure to step up and pick up the slack. It’s even possible for you to hold a lead for 31 minutes of the game, but the boys in blue are going to have the lead when the clock hits 0:00.
Perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned from these Cats is to never give up. Even when things look hopeless, you hold your head high and continue to fight. You never accept defeat until the final buzzer sounds.
These Cats “get it.” They trust one another and fight for one another. They also fight for the blue and white and on this day in Gainesville, they absolutely continued that fight ’til the battle was won and brought home the victory.
Have I mentioned I love my team?
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