With Kentucky plowing through everyone this season to a current No. 3 ranking in the country, and their trio of impact freshmen (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe) playing beyond expectations, it got me thinking about past great UK games. One game in particular will always stand out in my memory: the 2005 Elite Eight, Kentucky vs. Michigan State.
Izzo vs. Tubby.
Shannon Brown vs. Kelenna Azubuike.
Patrick Sparks vs. the instant replay.
Most remember the 2005 NCAA tournament for its powerhouse match-up-for-the-ages title game pitting the Nation’s two best teams together: Illinois and North Carolina. Sean May, Ray Felton, Deron Williams and Dee Brown made for a great final game – ultimately delivering Roy Williams his first banner. But the most exciting game of the tournament – and possibly the year – has to go to the Wildcats and Spartans in the Austin regional.
The game had plenty of star power (UK: Azubuike, Joe Crawford, Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo / MSU: Brown, Maurice Ager, Paul Davis and Drew Neitzel), drama and was everything that is special about the NCAA tournament. Even with all of the future NBA regulars in the building, the most memorable moment came from the 6-1 Kentucky senior, Sparks.
Sparks, who quietly averaged over 11 points during his career in Lexington, tied the game at 75 apiece and sent it into overtime with a bomb from deep as time expired. It was semi-controversial whether or not Sparks’ foot was on the line – mostly because of his white shoes. I remember watching it on television and the analysis seemed to drag on forever until the refs ruled the basket good. The reactions from both Michigan State and press row on the video are priceless: Are you serious?
Sparks – now hooping in the Ukraine – ended the game with 15 points, but his magic ace didn’t last, as the Spartans went on to win 94-88 in double OT. Brown led all scorers with 24 and Michigan State went on to lose in the Final Four to North Carolina.
I don’t even think shooter’s touch can apply here. That bounce was just insane.