And it’s not that Gardner-Webb beat the No. 23-ranked Wildcats on their home court in Lexington.
It’s the score. The Runnin’ Bulldogs beat Kentucky by 16 points.
“A lot of people will think this is a misprint, but I hope not,” Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs said after the game. “I hope they get to see it and can enjoy it. It’s going to take a few days to settle in.”
It’s doubtful Kentucky will ever enjoy memories of an 84-68 loss to Gardner-Webb in head coach Billy Gillispie’s second game, which fell on his 48th birthday. Certainly not Gillispie.
“You can’t just show up on the court and think you’re going to beat somebody because you wear a certain jersey,” Gillispie said after the game. “We didn’t play like a hunter tonight.”
Gardner-Webb did, led by Grayson Flittner and Thomas Sanders, in the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
Sanders finished with a double-double and Flittner scored 22 points, including a 3-pointer midway through the first half that opened Gardner-Webb’s lead to 26-10.
That’s not a misprint.
“It was a huge celebration in the locker room, with people throwing water all over the place,” Flittner told ESPN. “I don’t even know if it has hit everybody yet. Everyone is just enjoying the moment.”
Sports information director Marc Rabb said it was easily the biggest win in Gardner-Webb’s history. “This is our Michigan-Appalachian State in football terms,” Rabb told ESPN, referring to the Mountaineers’ upset two months earlier.
Gardner-Webb, picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic Sun, raced to a 14-0 lead in just more than four minutes.
Kentucky got no closer than seven points the rest of the game.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs shot 53.1% from the field, including 73% in the second half, and outrebounded Kentucky 37-29 for their first win against a ranked team in four tries.
“We thought if we played fast, that would give them problems,” Scruggs told ESPN. “We were up 14-0 and we maintained it from there. We did a great job of maintaining poise.”
All that is true, but there just seemed no way to explain it.
“This is devastating,” Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks said after the game. “This should not have happened. There’s just no excuse for us playing the way we did.”
Gardner-Webb advanced to the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic final four at Madison Square Garden, but lost to UConn and Oklahoma and finished the season 16-16. The Runnin’ Bulldogs haven’t beaten a ranked team since.
Kentucky never fully recovered, finishing 18-13 with a loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats opened the following season with a 111-103 loss at home to VMI and Gillispie was fired after the season. He was replaced by John Calipari, who has led Kentucky to four Final Four appearances, including the 2012 national championship.
Scruggs guided the team from Division II to Division I in 2000 then from the Atlantic Sun in 2002 to the Big South in 2008. He finished as Gardner-Webb’s winningest coach with a 221-219 record from 1995-2010.
On the cover: Fans celebrate Gardner-Webb’s 84-68 victory against Kentucky in 2007. (Courtesy Gardner-Webb University Archives)
Middle: Grayson Flittner drives against Kentucky on Nov. 7, 2007. He led the Runnin’ Bulldogs with 22 points in their upset of Kentucky. (Courtesy G-W Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Coastal Carolina (update) and Florida International
• Tuesday: Fordham and Furman
• Wednesday: Gardner-Webb and George Mason
• Thursday: George Washington and Grand Canyon
• Friday: Green Bay and Harvard