WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Gillispie says Cats aware of stakes at South Carolina

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - After one of the most celebrated losses in
recent Kentucky basketball history, coach Billy Gillispie is well
aware that nothing less than a victory will suffice as an encore.

The Wildcats (16-11, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) face a
virtual must-win scenario against South Carolina Wednesday to keep
alive hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

On Sunday, Kentucky - playing without freshman phenom Patrick
Patterson, sidelined with a stress fracture in his ankle - pushed
then-No. 1 Tennessee to the wire before falling short, 63-60.
Despite the losing cause, Gillispie heralded the effort as heroic.

"Not one person came up to me and said, 'Hey coach, go get
them, let's win this thing,"' Gillispie said. "Everybody was
trying to be supportive and sympathetic, but it was a little bit
lost that we went there to win. We gave a gallant effort and came
up a little bit short."

Just as Kentucky almost sneaked up on the Volunteers, Gillispie
says the Gamecocks (13-15, 5-9) are dangerous, despite being out of
contention. He cites some of South Carolina's close losses,
including a 78-70 defeat to the Wildcats in January, and the
presence of star guard Devan Downey.

"He's a perfect guard if you've got shooters, and he's close to
perfect if you don't," Gillispie said. "I don't know how you
guard that guy."

South Carolina is finishing its home season with the game, which
could mean the last game ever for coach Dave Odom, who announced
his retirement earlier this season. This week, Odom acknowledged
the emotions are starting to hit him.

"When I leave my house on Wednesday night, when I take that
ride for the last time, being human, I am sure I will think about
it," he said. "I am not sure what I will think and everything I
do in that building - it will be the last time I do it."

Gillispie expressed confidence his team would be able to deal
with the emotions of Odom's finale and also not suffer a letdown in
their second game without Patterson. Perry Stevenson and Mark Coury
excelled in his absence Sunday.

"If you have to play it by ear a little bit, I'm definitely
happy with the soldiers we've got going fighting for us,"
Gillispie said.

One of those soldiers, Kentucky senior Ramel Bradley, got
special praise this week from Odom, who suggested he should be in
the running for SEC player of the year.

"If you lose Patrick Patterson, you better have a Ramel
Bradley," Odom said. "He did a phenomenal job against
Tennessee."

After traveling to South Carolina, Kentucky finishes the season
at home with its own Senior Day against Florida before playing in
the SEC tournament.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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