“A lot of people will think this is a misprint, but I hope not,” Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs said.
No misprint here.
On Wednesday, Gardner-Webb University mens basketball team (9-21 last year in the Atlantic Sun Conference) devastated No. 20 Kentucky 84-68 in front of their home crowd in Lexington. And let’s just say the boo birds were in attendance.
Prior to Wednesday, the Bulldogs from Gardner-Webb had never beaten a ranked opponent. Ever. In their last three attempts against ranked teams, the private university from Boiling Springs, North Carolina had fallen to 0-3 with losses to No.21 Ohio State (2005), No.2 North Carolina (2006), and No. 4 Wisconsin (2006).
And just like they say (or never do, actually, now that I think of it), “fourth time’s a charm.”
Except this time it was.
In the first 4 minutes of Wednesday’s shocker, Gardner-Webb came out looking like Kentucky, the all-time winningest program in Division I basketball. Unfortunately for the Wildcats and fans alike, the Bulldogs scored 14 unanswered points and never looked back.
In that period of time, (which may have seemed like eternity to the despondent Wildcats) Kentucky did little – closer to nothing – to help their own cause, missing their first four shots and turning the ball over four times to boot .
As the half neared, Kentucky seemed to have finally gained some of its composure and managed to cut the lead to 7 points. But even by then it was too late. Gardner-Webb had succeeded in keeping the Kentucky club at bay by playing a concentrated game and took a 38-27 lead into the locker room at halftime. Again, they never looked back.
The second half opened, but little changed to add to the game’s dynamics. Though Billy Gillispie’s Kentucky team did manage to prove good at one thing: Their ability to score more points in the second half (41) than in the first (27) — even that couldn’t help forge a comeback against a determined Gardner-Webb group.
And for the first time in school history, the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs had beaten a ranked team, a team with numbers before their name. At any rate, a first in school history.
It was surely a loss that Kentucky would love to forget, but it was one that Gardner-Webb never will. And although there is no telling what this year’s season will bring for the Bulldogs, something inside of me says that it’s already brought more than they could’ve expected.