Story and photos by: Steve Tressler
The unranked Kentucky Wildcats went into the game last night with the #16 ranked Ole Miss Rebels having won 3 out of their last 4. For the season though, they had yet to beat a team in the Coaches Poll or AP top 25.
To make things even more frustrating for Kentucky fans/Soldiers here in Africa with the Kentucky National Guard’s Task Force Longrifles, is the fact that we don’t get to voice our strong opinions loud enough to be heard in the states, unless Coach Cal Skype’s with us of course, which to his credit he has done already this year.
So the jury was out. The decision (read ‘mind-set’) for many of the fans here was clear.
We (over here in Africa) felt a win over a ranked opponent on the road, combined with a loss column that stayed in the single digits for the season, and a strong showing in the SEC tournament would keep the dream alive for this year.
Yes, I am talking of a national championship.
Impossible? Not hardly.
First things first; a win over a ranked opponent on the road. This called for reinforcements!
Enter the Adjutant General of Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini and send the artillery as well, so this meant 138th Fires Brigade Commander Brian Wertzler.
Tonini, according to African legend, has never seen the Cats lose, ever, when watching the game anywhere overseas with our Kentucky Guard Soldiers.
On 590 WVLK’s Larry Glover Live post-game show, immediately following the game this note prompted former UK basketball great Kenny Walker to ask the general if he could stay overseas permanently. While Larry said maybe just for football season. Both comments, no doubt, generated knowing laughs with listeners, and with the Soldiers here as well.
No, they were not here just to watch the game. However, adding their motivational voices to what was already being yelled to “our Cats” from 7000 miles away provided the proverbial, dare I say, “YOPP!” (See ‘Horton Hears A Who!’)
Whatever happened last night after the half, worked!
With the 87-74 victory Kentucky improves to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in the SEC. Ole Miss gets their first loss in SEC play, and after 113 games versus the Wildcats in basketball the Ole Miss record is now 13 wins and 100 losses.
And although the win was much needed for the Cats, it was also a breath of fresh air for the Kentucky Guard Soldiers here in Africa, who are a part of a combined joint task force that is ‘nation-building’ here and strengthening our state and national ties in the global community.
Congratulations go out to Nerlens Noel who set a new single-game school record with 12 blocked shots.
Like our National Guard Soldiers here in Africa on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TaskForceLongrifles?ref=hl