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Sports in Kentucky

Kentucky’s Final Four run ends with sound of ‘clank’


Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

Sudden wasn’t it? A college basketball season fade to black.

“This close” to a Kentucky-Butler dream game, CBS was bound to trot out Butler grad Bobby Plump and spin as Hoosiers II.

We move on.

For University of Kentucky fans, the best of what was, what is now and what will be.

WHAT WAS …

• Another SEC Tourney title … in Catlanta.

• Final Four berth. However improbable, it was made sweeter by eliminating North Carolina and Ohio State.

• 2010-11 Kentucky fans ran up the victory flag 29 times in 38 games.

• Wildcats extended unbeaten streak at Rupp Arena to two seasons.

• Team-ness. Seeing kids grow into one is appreciated with such reverence nowhere else like the Commonwealth.

• Emergence from obscurity to MVP-Land, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins.

• King of Kentuckiana? Defeated Indiana, Notre Dame and bounced Louisville at Yum Center.

WELCOMED HOME — Kentucky basketball players DeAndre Liggins, left, and Eloy Vargas approached fans at Bluegrass Airport after returning to Lexington on Sunday after losing to Connecticut in the semifinals of the NCAA Final Four. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

WELCOMED HOME — Kentucky basketball players DeAndre Liggins, left, and Eloy Vargas approached fans at Bluegrass Airport after returning to Lexington on Sunday after losing to Connecticut in the semifinals of the NCAA Final Four. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

• Volunteer State: Swept Tennessee, East Tennessee and a split with Vanderbilt.

• New to the lexicon, Knight Time. Killer shots by UK’s brighteyed freshman doomed Princeton, North Carolina and Ohio State.

March Madness had its delicious moments — Spidermen-inblue wailing into camera lenses, face paint, clever placards, war whoops, chest thumps and this: six seconds from a dream game — Butler-Kentucky.

WHAM! The run was over. All the cheers and tumult gave way to the most hateful sound in all Big Blue Nation. Clank! As in 33.9 percent shooting.

UConn was held to 13 fewer shots and one-of-a dozen from the 3-point line. The Huskies managed just 56 points. On most any night that’s a Gotcha!

Instead, Kentucky missed 41 of 62 shots and left eight points on the free throw line.

Clank!

The blare of history repeating itself rolled in to rain on the parade. Was 27 springtimes ago a bewilderment fan base was left with “whaa happened?”.

In 1984, a Kentucky team took a 29-4 record to Seattle and a Final Four meeting with Georgetown. As with UConn’s 56 points, the Mel Turpin-led Wildcats limited the Hoyas to 53, but UK’s offense did a meltdown. It descended into a crescendo of that fearsome, perplexing and hateful sound. Clank!

Hoyas 53, Kentucky 40.

WHAT IS …

• The season of one-and-done is upon us. Current scholarshipholders who basked in the glow of affection only Kentucky fans can give and understand “you only go around once,” will stay in college. Those who opt for the Daniel ‘Show-me-the-money’ Orton $chool of thought, likely have stopped going to class and gone shopping — a new suit for NBA draft night, a top of the line BMW, and a house for Mom.

WHAT WILL BE …

• Out of some twisted sense of pride, UK will call a press conference where Calipari and new groupie Lee Todd will praise and wish one-and-doners all the best. Neither will mention academic progress or graduation rates, and call it a season.

• Four McDonald’s All-Americans, and more, are on the way.

• Rumors. Calipari will scotch them, deny interest in other jobs, but enjoy the attention.

• Kentucky will be ranked in top three if not number one in preseason.

• And, at least one fan will keep Big Blue Nation abreast of days until Big Blue Madness. 180-something.

Sun Belt Best: Pettigrew

Western Kentucky’s Steffphon Pettigrew is Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, says CollegeInsider.com. An award, along with his style of play and statistics as a Hilltopper, should get the 6-5 Elizabethtown native an invitation to NBA tryout camps this spring and summer, maybe a D-League contract.

As a senior he started every game, averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in a team-best 33.9 minutes a game.

Pettigrew’s four- year WKU career stands as one the finest in Hilltopper history. He started the last 38 games, played in 136, second most all-time, scored 1,544 points, 13th on WKU’s scoring list.

News & Views

NEWS. Fayette County was represented in both NCAA men’s and women’s title games — Shelvin Mack for Butler and Natalie Novosel at Notre Dame. Each had a 20-points plus game in semifi nal wins against VCU and UConn respectively.

VIEW. We hope Mr. Basketball 2011 Anthony Hickey picks the right school and rises to level of success enjoyed by Mack and Novosel.

NEWS. Harry Todd of Cadiz is recipient of the Ralph Beard Award for 2010. Kentucky Mr. Basketball Association President Steve Miller will present the award to Todd at the Kentucky All-Stars dinner June 4 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Louisville. The Beard Award is given annually to a person who has contributed to excellence in basketball in Kentucky.

VIEW. Despite tepid enthusiasm at best from KHSAA offi cialdom, Todd has remained a driving force for recognition and appreciation for Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners.

NEWS. Butler University director of athletics Barry Collier vowed last week to do all he can to keep coach Brad Stevens.

VIEW. If Stevens keeps or extends his contract at Butler, we could be seeing a new era in college coaches finally realizing, happiness can’t be bought. Stop laughing.

Worth Repeating

With UConn coach Jim Calhoun and Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel facing suspensions at the start of next season(s), this jewel from John Madden: “Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.”

And so it goes.

You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@aol.com.


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