-Gardner Webb exploded out of the gates against Kentucky last night and never looked back. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and led by as many as 18 at one point en route to an 84-68 win. Upsets happen in college basketball, but what made this one so shocking was that it didnt look like a fluke. Gardner Webb looked and played like a Top 25 team. Kentucky got it down to single digits several times and each time they did it they appeared to be building up quite a bit of momentum. However, Gardner Webb always had an answer. Each time they would make a big defensive stop and/or execute well on offense to shift the momentum back in their favor. This should look good on their tournament resume, and they'll get their chance at some more quality competition next week.
Grayson Flittner had five turnovers, but he also had five assists, 22 points, and shot the ball lights out. He had just 7pts against Alabama A&M in the opener, and his stats from last year werent that impressive. What in the world did he have for breakfast yesterday morning??
Equally impressive was Thomas Sanders
. He had just 9 against AAMU, but had a double-double against Kentucky with 21 points and 10 boards. He didnt appear to be all that outstanding last year either.
Two other players scored in double figures and as a team they shot 53% from the floor
in Rupp Arena.
Gardner Webb won nine games a season ago and was a non-factor in the Atlantic Sun. Tonight, they looked like a Top 25 team with basically the same major contributing players they had a season ago. Im blown away. Weve seen upsets before, but I dont recall many like this. A team that was sub-par by Atlantic Sun standards a season ago took down Kentucky, a consensus Top 25 team that is well coached, at Rupp Arena. It wasnt even close.
-The season is three days old, but weve already seen some surprises. In exhibition play, Grand Valley State took down Michigan State, and Findlay upset Ohio State. Those results may be surprising, but I wouldnt consider them to be alarming. Oftentimes in exhibition games coaches are more concerned about focusing on their weaknesses and trying to strengthen those than they are about trying to go to their strengths and win the game. Grand Valley State and Findlay are also both div2 powerhouses. Theyd probably finish at or near the top of the standings of several lower level div1 conferences. I was more surprised last year when Oral Roberts won at Kansas than I was by the Ohio State and Michigan State exhibition losses. I would also rate Alaska Anchorages win over Southern Illinois in the 2005 Great Alaska Shootout, and Santa Claras win over North Carolina in November of the 2004-2005 season as bigger shockers than either of those exhibition games. College basketball will shock you. I watch tons of it and it never ceases to shock me.
-As for whats next for Gardner Webb, they are playing at Radford Saturday, November 17th. That is the day after the championship game/3rd place game of the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. Evidently they didnt give too much consideration to making the semis when they put that schedule together. Another thing thats funny is that Gardner Webb plays at Connecticut on November 20th. Assuming Connecticut gets by Buffalo tomorrow, thats who theyll face in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. Not only are they playing two games at two different venues on back-to-back nights, but theyre probably going to face Connecticut twice in a five day period.
-The non-exempt season begins tomorrow, and Ill have a write-up of the action posted.