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Kentucky toppled by Baptist univ. team

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Venturing into Kentucky’s Rupp Arena on Wednesday night, Gardner-Webb University’s men’s basketball team astonished the 22nd-ranked Wildcats, 84-68, before 20,000 fans.

Back at the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ home in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb students were gathering rapidly in the newly renovated “kennel,” or meal exchange, which could potentially hold 150-200 people.

The game was playing on each of the televisions and the room soon was filled to capacity. Students had filled every chair and were sitting on the floor and some were peering in through the windows to catch a glimpse of the game.

Student Grace Whiteside recounted, “After they won, guys were ripping their shirts off, running through the quad, the dormitories and the apartments trying to get other students to come celebrate.”

Band members came outside with their instruments and heightened the excitement.

“Everyone was yelling so much it sounded like hundreds of voices screaming, cheering and yelling as if we were actually at the game,” Whiteside said. “It was a beautiful picture of what school spirit really is.”

Student Taylor Hutchins said that when the meal exchange was renovated, it was never expected that such a moment in Gardner-Webb history would create such a gathering. “Including the people that were pouring in from outside the kennel and the people lined along each window, there had to have been 400 people there,” Hutchins said.

“It was such a great sound of constant enthusiasm…. We woke up this morning to people screaming, ‘Go watch ESPN, we’re the top story!'” Hutchins exclaimed.

On Thursday, Bulldogs coach Rick Scruggs said, “I feel fabulous … like I’m on cloud nine!” Scruggs had lost his voice during the game, but was able to do an interview with an ESPN crew that had traveled to the university campus.

“It was a special night, one of those nights you’ll take to your grave,” Scruggs said. “I had to holler over 20,000 people last night and the only thing I lost was my voice.”

For at least one team member, being recognized by ESPN was not as important. Auryn Macmillan, a native Australian, had the opportunity to speak on one of his favorite radio stations in his native country.

Macmillan said he and others on the team went into the game with confidence. “We have to remember that the opposing team is human too and that it’s not impossible to defeat them…. They breathe like us, they bleed like us.

“It was a great victory, but only the first step. We have to keep performing, working hard and have fun while we can.”

Macmillan was stunned by the support of the student body, saying, “It is great to give entertainment and we had so many people behind us the entire way…. Overall it was an insane atmosphere.”

This victory rapidly became an international story that not only was recognized by ESPN, but also The New York Times.

When Coach Scruggs returned to the gym after the ESPN and Times interview, the crowd had swollen from approximately 30 people to nearly 300.

Students were decked out in Gardner-Webb attire, some had their faces painted and some had made huge signs. The band appeared and joined the crowd as the basketball players came onto the court.

Eventually the crowd became the school in its entirety, including members of the Baptist-affiliated university’s various sports teams, faculty and clubs, celebrating the extraordinary victory.

“At times like these, the celebrating with our fellow classmates and the passion and school spirit put into this student gathering is more pleasing than the victory itself,” Whiteside said.
Ashley Chatham is a student journalist at Gardner-Webb University.

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  • Ashley Chatham