Braves to Kentucky: A Trip to RememberPosted by Janae Melvin on November 10, 2015 in Basketball, Braves, Kentucky It was the experience of a lifetime for all who made the trip Monday, November 2, when the Ottawa University men’s basketball team traveled to Lexington, K.Y., to face the then-No. 2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats at famed Rupp Arena. The Braves lost the exhibition game, but left Kentucky with plenty of memories they won’t soon forget.
The exciting matchup came about after University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart ’81 was named 2014-2015 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year. UK’s Deputy Athletic Director DeWayne Peevy reached out to OU head basketball coach Aaron Siebenthall to ask if the Braves would be interested in playing the Wildcats since Barnhart would be recognized for his award during a pre-game ceremony. Once Coach Sibenthall realized the call wasn’t a prank from one of his friends, he began making travel plans for the team. The entire men’s basketball team, including the varsity and both junior varsity squads, made the trip.
Barnhart hosted the men’s team for dinner on campus Sunday evening upon their arrival in Lexington and gave them a tour of Commonwealth Stadium, the UK football facility.
Close to 250 OU supporters traveled to Bluegrass State for the game. The Advancement Office arranged several social gatherings for the Braves faithful during their time in Lexington, starting with a World Series Game 5 watch party on Sunday evening.
On Monday afternoon, a VIP luncheon was held at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Lexington where President Kevin C. Eichner, Vice President for University Advancement Paul Bean and Coach Aaron Siebenthall thanked Barnhart for providing OU the opportunity play in the game and presented him with a commemorative gold Braves jersey. Following the luncheon, OU fans walked to Rupp Arena to watch the team’s shoot around and take a tour of the UK locker room. The OU contingency gathered again for a pre-game social Monday evening, hosted by the Advancement Office, before heading over to Rupp Arena for tip-off. The black and gold was well represented in the arena and warmly welcomed by UK staff and fans.
When the final buzzer sounded and the post-game press conference had concluded, the men’s team returned to the court for a group photo and to visit with family and friends before loading the bus for the drive back. When the team stepped back on the floor, a contingency of Wildcat fans who were still in the arena stood and applauded the Braves for their effort in the game. A standing ovation for a team that wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to compete against a blue chip program and, regardless of the ultimate outcome, had a once-in-a-lifetime experience.