COLUMBIA, SC --- Let me try and put this into the best perspective I can. I have watched more than 40 college teams in person from the Big East, Big 10, SEC, and Pac-12, and I have never seen a fanbase hijack a true road game like I saw Saturday when Kentucky traveled to Colonial Life Arena at South Carolina.
And neither has John Calipari...
"That wasn't usual," said Coach Cal after the game. "Usually it's like a third of the building, but this was ridiculous."
"I'm not used to seeing that," said sophomore Terrence Jones, after being asked if he's used to that kind of support by now on the road. "That was crazy today."
"We were all talking about that," said freshman Anthony Davis, with a huge smile on his face after the game. "It felt like a home game here, with so much blue in the crowd."
Among the lowlights for the Gamecocks in their own arena were taking the floor before the game to a host of boos loud enough to drown out the South Carolina band plus countless "Go Big Blue!" chants that echoed over any attempt from the Gamecock faithful that actually came to the game.
Big Blue Nation travels well. When I was in New York City and Connecticut with the Cats earlier this season, there were also thousands of Wildcat fans there. But this was different. This created a new standard. Those other games were on neutral floors. This was not.
"This today, when I walked out in that arena, I'm like, 'What in the world?' It looked like half the building was blue."
The official attendance was 16,527. It's safe to say more than half were UK fans, probably even more than 60%, and that is not an exaggeration.
South Carolina Athletic Director Maria Hickman may want to send a thank you note to Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart for the extra revenue.
Maybe it's appropriate Gamecocks Head Coach and Lexington native Darrin Horn suffered his worst defeat in his first year at South Carolina and nine years of head coaching experience overall (Kentucky won 86-52). Horn would not answer how much more difficult playing in that kind of 'home' environment made it against the #1 team in the nation but said he's well aware how well UK traditionally travels.
But after wearing some new gray jerseys last home game, Calipari said it's more like his players are going platinum.
"It's the craziest thing about this program," said Calipari. "Our fans treat these players like rock stars,"
Even more than 90 minutes before the game, there was nothing but blue shirts waiting outside the arena. Then I went inside and a few hundred more were already five rows deep around Kentucky's end of the court during warm-ups. This is at 4:30 PM. The game started at 6...430 miles away from Rupp Arena!
"I didn't come out, but they told me they those people surrounded the court while they were warming up taking pictures like it's Bon Jovi or somebody. It's like, 'What in the world?'" Calipari went on, before offering a little perspective.
"Those people cannot get in our building...we sell 24-thousand 3-hundred something (tickets every game)...so they go on the road."
A gentleman by the name of Jim Guelda tweeted me during the game and said, "It looked like when the Dallas Cowboys play in Arizona." Jim himself was watching in awe from California.
Even UK superfan Bob Wiggins was in attendance, who had been to every Wildcat home and road game for 19 straight years, before the streak ended in 1997 at the age of 68 after a heart attack.
Well today, Wiggins saw quite the spectacle for what I'm told was his 85th birthday and 1530th Kentucky game.
But whether you're Wiggins or a 25-year-old TV sports reporter, if you were inside Columbia Life Arena Saturday, you saw something you've never seen before.
It was a privilege.
Sidebar: After the display UK put on the court, in a game Coach Cal called the Cats best of the season, I wanted to include the superlative notes and stats (courtesy: UK Media Relations):
Team game notes
-- The Wildcats used the starting combination of Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague for the 15th time. UK is 14-1 with that starting five.
-- Darius Miller was the first sub off the bench for the 14th time this season.
-- Kentucky extended its streak of games with a 3-pointer to 811 games, the third-longest streak in the country.
-- The Wildcats led 52-25 at the half and are now 19-0, 8-0 in the SEC when leading at the half.
-- UK's 27-point halftime lead was its largest in league play this season.
-- The Cats shot a blistering 58.6 pct. from the field in the first half. It was the third time in the last four games UK has shot 56 pct. or better from the field in the first half.
-- Kentucky registered double-digit blocks for the 10th time this season.
-- The Wildcats' 34-point victory is their largest in league play this season.
-- Kentucky shot 51.6 pct. from the field, while holding South Carolina to 30.5 pct. shooting.
-- The Wildcats committed just three turnovers, the fewest all season and fewest in SEC this season
-- UK dished out 17 assists to just three turnovers.
#1 Darius Miller
-- Finished with five points pushing career total to 1,090 career points 48th on the UK all-time scoring list.
-- Shooting .452 pct. from 3-point range in league games (14-31) compared to .339 pct. in 15 non-conference games.
#3 Terrence Jones
-- Scored a season-high 16 first-half points. It was his fifth time this season scoring double-digits in the first half.
#20 Doron Lamb
-- Has hit multiple 3-pointers in seven of his last nine games.
-- Hit double-figures in the first half for the sixth time this season.
-- Scored 18 points, a personal best in league play this season.
#23 Anthony Davis
-- Tallied eight blocks, giving him 116 on the season, breaking Shaquille O'Neal's SEC freshman record for blocks.
-- Davis is now ninth on the league's single-season blocks list.
-- His eight blocks was the most by a Wildcat against South Carolina.
-- Tied his personal-best for blocks.
-- Tallied a season-high 18 first-half points. It was his sixth time this season going for double-figures in the first half.
-- Of his nine made field goals, seven were dunks.
#33 Kyle Wiltjer
-- Scored a SEC career-best 12 points and it was the most since he scored 24 against Loyola on Dec. 22.