LEXINGTON — If you’re a University of Kentucky basketball fan and you caught yourself yawning Tuesday morning, chances are you weren’t alone. The Kentucky Wildcats kept fans up late Monday night. But the late night ended with a championship victory, which gave tradition-rich Kentucky its eighth national title. The Wildcats concluded a thrilling 40-game season 38-2, defeating Kansas 67-59 in the NCAA national title game in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Kentucky captured its first national title since 1998. Western Kentucky (Round 2), Iowa State (Round 3), Indiana (Sweet 16), Baylor (Elite Eight) and Louisville (Final Four) all fell to the Wildcats during the NCAA Tournament.
Fans from Floyd and several other area counties followed Kentucky throughout the season. The team’s large following from Eastern Kentucky was strong throughout a highly-anticipated campaign that lived up to a lofty preseason billing. The Wildcats only suffered one regular-season loss, falling to Indiana on the road. Postseason interest, which started when the Wildcats played in the SEC Tournament, hit a fever pitch when the Wildcats reached the Final Four for the second straight year. Several area residents caught the Cats on the road in the postseason. Many fans took time off work or sacrificed otherwise to follow the team on the road, keeping others at home updated via Facebook and Twitter.Kentucky’s only other loss during the season came to Vanderbilt in the SEC championship game. The Wildcats among their 30-plus regular-season wins, owned a victory over Kansas.
In his third season in Lexington, Kentucky head coach John Calipari put together arguably the best team in the storied Wildcat basketball program’s history. Calipari took Kentucky to the national title three years and one day after being hired to guide the Wildcats in 2009.
Monday night’s Kentucky fanbase outnumbered the one that had assembled in support of familiar foe Kansas. Determined Kentucky established an early lead over Kansas in the championship contest. Kentucky carried a 41-27 lead into halftime and withstood multiple runs from the Jayhawks in the second half.
Sophomore Doron Lamb was the go-to player on the offensive end for Kentucky. Lamb, who hit back-to-back clutch three-pointers for the Wildcats in the second half, led Kentucky with a game-high 22 points.
Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist joined Lamb in double figures, chipping in 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Terrence Jones had nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the Wildcats.
Anthony Davis, who was honored as the Naismith National Player of the Year, scored just six points. Davis, however, registered 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and five steals in Kentucky’s title triumph.
Kansas (32-7) received a team-high 19 points from Tyshawn Taylor. Thomas Robinson scored 18 points and Elijah Johnson added 13 for the Jayhawks.
Kentucky is home to college basketball’s all-time winning program and now the Wildcats are back on top.
Fans were back on the road again Tuesday afternoon, venturing to Rupp Arena to catch a public celebration of the 2011-12 season.