Evansville 67, #1 Kentucky 64

Walter McCarty's the poop in Cal's Ice Cream.

Jim Rome
November 13, 2019 - 9:47 am
Evansville

USA Today

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Evansville 67, #1 Kentucky 64. Let me repeat that: Evansville 67, #1 Kentucky 64.

As my guy Jon Rothstein would say: THIS IS ONLY NOVEMBER.

This isn’t March. This is November. This isn’t one of those strange holiday tournaments from back in the day where you play in a funky gym and anything can happen. This was the Evansville Purple Aces going into Lexington and taking down one of the most storied teams in college basketball.

Not just the Evansville Purple Aces, but the Evansville Purple Aces coached by Kentucky legend Walter McCarty. The guy who won a national title at Kentucky just beat Kentucky. In their house.

And then partied in the visitor’s locker room.

Maybe my favorite detail from the whole night was Kyle Tucker reporting that McCarty stood outside the locker room for a second before going in, knowing the shower that was waiting for him, and saying “this is a $4,000 suit.”

That is awesome. That is a $4,000 suit and a million dollar win.  

McCarty, who grew up in Evansville, Indiana, and went back there to take over the program, pulls off one of the biggest upsets in basketball history. That wasn’t just a 25-point underdog going into one of the most legendary arenas in sports and taking down John Calipari and company.

And it wasn’t just number one going down, that was a number one going down to a team that was picked to finish 8th. Not 8th in the country. 8th in their own conference!

Kentucky had won 52 straight at home to unranked teams. Evansville won 11 games last year. And then went into Lexington to win their second game this year.

That might be the worst loss for Kentucky in the history of that building. And it is definitely the stuff of legend.

You want the magic of college basketball? That was it, right there. As McCarty said: "I don't know if anything matches this other than winning a national championship from a basketball standpoint. It's awesome to be able to come in here and play on this type of stage and my guys, I have a good group of guys. They love each other and they're really connected. And this group to come in here and be able to do that is just awesome.  It does not get any better than that."

No it does not. And that group is connected. They are tight. They are together. And it was awesome.

It was KJ Riley going for 18 points, including 8 for 8 from the line.

It was Sam Cunliffe going for 17 points and having the stones to sink both foul shots with 6.8 seconds left to stretch the lead to three.

And then all Kentucky could do was hope.

Think about that – Kentucky needed a desperation three to tie Evansville. And they didn’t get it.

And this wasn’t a fluke. McCarty told Andy Katz after the game that he had been telling Tony Delk and some of the other guys that his crew might be able to go get one. And they did. The Purple Aces led at the half and won the game.

They outrebounded Kentucky. They forced turnovers. They found holes in Kentucky’s defense. And they were tough as hell.

Because even though they led by 8 in the first half and seven in the second, you knew Kentucky was going to go on a run. And you know how that goes – the number one team is on the ropes, they go on a run, and the underdog can’t handle it and gets overwhelmed.

Except that didn’t happen. Evansville didn’t get overwhelmed. Kentucky tied it at 53 with eight minutes to go and then Evansville grabbed every rebound for the next two minutes. A 6-0 run of rebounds. And a 5-0 run of points. That’s toughness. That’s handling the pressure of the moment and rising above it. That is how you beat the number one team in their house – take the best punch and throw a few back. 

Down the stretch, they got in front and they stayed in front. As the pressure built, as the upset alert messages were pushed out across the country, the Purple Aces got tougher. They didn’t cave. They just stayed on task, stayed on mission, and won the game.

As Calipari said after the game: "If we [would've] somehow pulled it out, it would have been unfair. Because they were the tougher team, they made shots, and that's tough to do in this building. Give credit to Walter. He had his team better prepared than I had my team. They deserved to win."

That’s how well Evansville played, that Cal is saying if his team had found a way to win, it would’ve been unfair. And he’s right.

How big a deal was that? Check these Evansville chants. Not from the Evansville-Kentucky game, but from the North Alabama-Indiana game. You think the crowd in Assembly Hall wasn’t fired up to hear about Kentucky losing? And a team from down the road taking them down?

And I know all the Kentucky haters and Cal haters will be fired up today. They’ll be drinking up the tears of Big Blue Nation by the gallon. And that’s fine.

But don’t sleep on Kentucky. They are good. They just beat Michigan State last week. They aren’t going to the NIT, although Cal might be tempted to say that after last night. They aren’t as tough as he wants them to be and they got caught last night by a team that had a plan and executed it.

But don’t get this twisted, this isn’t about what the Wildcats didn’t do, it’s all about what the Purple Aces did do. And what they did was absolutely awesome. Which is exactly why Walter McCarty is coming up on the show next.  Because last night, Evansville outplayed, outrushed, out classed and out coached the number one team in the nation and they did it in the Kentucky’s building. Unbelievable win; an upset for the ages.