By LARRY VAUGHT
It was a pretty terrific 72 hours for UK Radio Network play-by-play announcer Tom Leach when John Calipari’s Wildcats beat Louisville 78-70 in overtime Saturday and then UK rallied to beat Virginia Tech 37-30 in the Belk Bowl Tuesday.
“The football team missed a chance to get signature wins other than maybe what they did to Louisville to end the regular season,” Leach said Thursday on WPBK-FM.. “That’s why I wanted to see them get this win so much because I think fans already really liked this team and now like it even more.
“Virginia Tech has been to 27 straight bowls and has a legendary defensive coordinator (in Bud Foster). I think this team will be on the list of really special Kentucky teams because of this win. There was juice, choppiness that added some spark to the matchup and it was definitely there early in the game. Guys were jawing at each other but after a little time passed they gained respect for each other and the game the last three quarters was just a really good game. And the ending could not have been better for UK.”
It was the same type of script for the basketball team’s win over Louisville where Nick Richards had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 drawn fouls in perhaps his best game in three years at UK after being less than stellar in losses to Utah and No. 5 Ohio State the previous week.
“Nick was playing with a lot of emotion in a good way. He enjoyed plays he was making,” Leach said. “The previous game against Ohio State I thought he was focused when the game started. He was moving, trying to defend and then got two quick fouls and maybe let that take him out for the rest of the day. It wasn’t that he didn’t show to play, though. It just came down to foul trouble and against Louisville when he got in foul trouble, he didn’t let it bother him.”
Leach said playing two top five teams — Ohio State and Louisville — in consecutive games was something no UK team had done since 1974.
“They hung in with one team, beat the other one,” Leach said. “Kentucky is not close to being as good as it is going to be in March. If they are doing that now, they should be fine by March as far as at least being a (national title) contender.”