UNCW used Gardner-Webb blueprint to beat Kentucky

On3 imageby:Jack Pilgrim12/02/23

Kentucky hadn’t lost to a mid-major in the regular season since 2001 before Gardner-Webb walked into Rupp Arena on Nov. 8, 2007 and defeated the No. 20 Wildcats 84-68 in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic.

Many of you remember where you were that day. UNC Wilmington coach Takayo Siddle certainly does — he was on the winning bench as a player, scoring eight points to go with three assists and two rebounds for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

Now as a coach, he went into Rupp Arena and led his team to another victory over a ranked Kentucky team. And UNCW did it the same way Gardner-Webb did it all those years ago. The Seahawks simply believed.

“I mentioned it briefly yesterday (laughter). It was so long ago, and they don’t want to hear about my glory days at all,” Siddle said of that win back in ’07. “My message was ‘believe.’ Anything can happen and little Gardner-Webb came in here back in 2007 and we had the same outcome.”

The Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 53.1% from the field and 47.1% from three that day. The Cats? 35.5% overall and 31.6% from deep. Tonight, it was more of the same, the Seahawks outshooting the home team both overall and from deep, highlighted by 11 made threes compared to just five for the losing squad.

It didn’t take an otherwordly shooting effort, no one player going nuclear. Just a simple matter of executing the gameplan and believing they could win straight-up. And that’s exactly what UNCW did.

“We quickly moved on (from Gardner-Webb talk) because they didn’t want to hear that but I think they understood the message I was trying to get across to them,” Siddle said. “We came in here believing that we could win the game. We know how talented we are as a ball club. Our guys did a tremendous job executing.”

The Seahawks were in need of a signature victory, and they got it against one of the hottest teams in college basketball. All they had to do was follow the blueprint their coach laid out from his last time inside Rupp Arena. That’s exactly how it unfolded.

“Coach Siddle is the type of coach that is never going to let you underestimate yourself,” UNCW standout Trazarien White said. “He is going to push you to be the greatest you can be on and off the court. He had the keys to success, and we just followed him, and it worked out in our favor.”

One team earned the win, the other earned the loss. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they fit the latter category.

“They deserved to win the game. They did,” John Calipari said. “I would have liked to have stolen — steal the game from them, but they deserved to win it. They played well. They shot well. … This is all part of it. You win and you learn. This was ‘learn.'”

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