Sports

An old-fashioned Rupp rout

As symbols go, Rupp Arena was turning into a basketball version of the Statue of Liberty.

Your poor. Your tired. Your huddled masses. Your Gardner-Webb, San Diego and VMI.

Over the past season and three games of the current one, the crib of college basketball's ultimate Goliath had become the place where little guys came to fulfill their hoops dreams.

Unfortunately for the wonderfully alliterative Longwood Lancers, Monday night was when the giant restored order to his lair.

In what had to be a welcome throwback for the ever-fretting fandom that swears loyalty to Kentucky blue, the Wildcats crushed little Longwood 91-57.

The tiny school (total enrollment of some 4,500) from Farmville, Va., was treated to a throwback Rupp experience from days of yore.

Vintage Kentucky "out-talented" foes of lesser pedigree.

Facing a team with only one starter taller than 6-foot-5, UK's 6-9 star Patrick Patterson imposed his will with 28 points, 12 rebounds and career-high totals of six assists and four blocks.

Heretofore in Patterson's sophomore season, the big man had looked rusty and surprisingly earth-bound coming off surgery to repair a stress fracture to his left ankle.

Against the smallish Lancers, he was as productive as he's ever been in a Kentucky uniform.

"The dominant player on both ends of the floor," Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie neatly summarized.

In UK's first three games, the turnover-plagued Cats got their big man only 25 shots. Total.

Against poor Longwood, Patterson had four field-goal attempts by the first TV timeout. He had 12 attempts (and nine makes) by halftime.

Any thoughts that the Lancers — who, recall, had already vanquished the dreaded Gardner-Webb this season — had of an upset were smashed.

By intermission, the UK lead was 51-24. The Rupp crowd that had emitted a smattering of boos at the Cats during the stunning, season-opening loss to Virginia Military gave their team a standing O.

Getting the full throwback Rupp treatment, the visitors played the entire first half without attempting a foul shot.

So potent was Patterson, he was unstoppable even during the halftime break.

When the teams left the floor after half one, the arena statistical monitors showed the big sophomore from Huntington, W.Va., with 22 points and nine rebounds.

Some four minutes into halftime, Patterson's first-half rebound total suddenly upgraded to 10.

It was a feel-good night for a guy who says he needed one.

"It's confidence," Patterson said of the reason for his dull start to this season. "I'm just trying to turn it around and build my confidence back up to where it was last year."

The second half was the retro Rupp experience to the extreme.

Kentucky's lead grew as large as 41. For the first time this season, there was a Jared Carter sighting.

On the court.

During the game.

We swear.

The 7-foot-2 senior from Scott County logged four minutes with a rebound to show for it.

In a throwback to the ghost of Masiello Past, walk-on Mark Krebs got Rupp rocking by draining a late three-pointer.

The smallish crowd (by Kentucky standards) of 20,105 rooted intensely for another pay-to-play player, Paintsville freshman Landon Slone, to dent the scoring column as well (he didn't).

Still, a rollicking good time was had by all.

By the end, the vanquished little guys from Longwood were saying the kind of things that teams from smaller conferences always used to say when dropped into the Rupp crucible.

"There was a lot of learning for our kids," said Longwood Coach Mike Gillian. "There was a lot of reality. We're nowhere near being at the level of a group like Kentucky."

Said Longwood guard Ryan Bogan: "They were everything we were expecting."

Whether blasting the Lancers is really an indication that Kentucky's ultimate destiny in 2008-09 will fly high above the Cats' listless start is debatable.

Before Monday night, it seemed obvious that UK will go as far as its point (or lead, in Billy G. vernacular) guard play will take it. After Monday night, that still seems obvious.

Still, for one night, this was your father's Kentucky. The little guy came into Rupp.

And got a crushing.

For one night, the natural order was fully restored.

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