Rajon Rondo's game-winning three-point shot with 1.4 seconds remaining Saturday against South Carolina, rescued the Cats from a tight situation again. Earlier this season, Rondo hit a turnaround, fall away jumper with just 1.5 seconds remaining to give his team the win against Central Florida. Both games were in front of the home crowd at Rupp Arena. But this shot saved a conference win for UK, at a time when the Cats need them the most. A collective gasp could be heard from fans all around Rupp Arena when Rondo let loose with the 20-footer from the left wing. Media members at the courtside table with me were saying, out loud, "What is he doing?"
But what were Rondo's teammates thinking and saying as the shot went toward the hoop? After all, it wasn't the play Coach Tubby Smith drew up in the huddle during the timeout with 9.9 seconds remaining. What was going through their minds?
"I was caught up in the moment," said Joe Crawford, "and I was like ‘No, don't shoot'. But he shot it with such confidence. He (Rondo) can create his own shot. But we are making better decisions at the end of the game now." Ramel Bradley was getting ready to take matters into his own hands. "I thought he was going to come over," said Bradley, "and hand the ball to me and I was going to take the shot." Either way, Bradley had butterflies in the stomach. "Yeah, I was a little nervous. I think everybody in the gym was nervous. But I'm just happy it went down." Bradley's first thoughts when Rondo released? "God, please go in, and then, go rebound the ball." A load lifted when the basket was made. "Once that shot went down it was like a big relief for me," said Bradley.
Ravi Moss is more of a go-with-the-flow kid of guy. "I was like, OK," chuckled Moss. "(Laughs) If we want to take that route, that's cool. I knew it was going up somehow." After it went through? "It was great. Nothing but celebration after that." Patrick Sparks is not a guy who talks a lot. So his first thought was a bit of an understatement. "He hit a really tough shot…it was a great shot," said Sparks.
Rondo never thought about giving up the ball. "I knew coming out of the timeout," said Rondo, "that I wanted to take the shot. You know, if we were going to lose the game, then it would be all on me." Rondo was more subdued and says he wanted to be more in control. "I was trying to get everybody to calm down," said UK's guard. "The game is not over yet. There is still 1.4 seconds left on the clock. Let's just get the stop and then we can celebrate." As to why he made the shot and his first thought after it went in, Rondo said it was divine intervention. "God let the shot fall in."