Throughout March Sadness, KSR will be bringing you highlights of Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament games from the past 30 years. Today, we will relive the joy and heartbreak of the semifinals.
1993: No. 1 Michigan 81, No. 1 Kentucky 78 (OT)
Saturday, April 3, 1993
Kentucky had won all four of its tournament games by 20-plus points and scored 96 or more in three of them. This was the Cats’ first Final Four since 1984, a feat even more impressive when you consider the program was only a few years removed from NCAA sanctions. Unfortunately, the Cats met the Fab Five in the semifinals. The game went to overtime, but with Jamal Mashburn and Jared Prickett fouled out and Dale Brown down with an injury, the Wolverines got the win and advanced to the national championship, where they lost to North Carolina.
Five years ago in a piece for The Players’ Tribune, Jalen Rose reflected on the Final Four game, which he called the Fab Five’s biggest win.
The Fab Five might have been the most talented team in college basketball, but any objective observer would admit the Wildcats weren’t far behind. That team had Tony Delk, Walter McCarty and Jamal Mashburn, all of whom would go on to be very good NBA players. And their biggest weapon might very well have been Rick Pitino, another Hall of Fame coach.
Their style of play, which involved a suffocating press defense and a run-and-gun offense with an emphasis on three-pointers, was quite similar to what we see among the great teams in the NBA today. It was innovative, and definitely not fun to play against. Up until they faced us, they were beating teams in the tournament by 30 points. Just dismantling them.
There are plenty of highlights of this game on YouTube if you want to find them.
1996: No. 1 Kentucky 81, No. 1 UMass 74
Saturday, March 30, 1996
Kentucky led John Calipari’s UMass squad by 15 points early in the second half, but Marcus Camby and Edgar Padilla led a Minutemen comeback to cut the lead to three with 1:02 to go. After a timeout, Kentucky executed a nearly-flawless final minute, with five different Cats scoring the final ten points.
Tony Delk led Kentucky with 20 points, followed by Antoine Walker with 14. Walter McCarty had eight points and ten rebounds, and bore the brunt of guarding Camby, who finished with a game-high 25 points, but was forced into several poor decisions and went almost 16 minutes without a field goal.
1997: No. 1 Kentucky 78, No. 1 Minnesota 69
Saturday, March 29, 1997
Clem Haskins’ squad put up a fight, winning the rebounding battle 48-34 and tying the game at 54, but the Cats held off the Gophers with a 24-15 run over the final nine minutes. Ron Mercer overcame leg cramps to score a team-high 19 points. After tearing his ACL in January, Derek Anderson came off the bench to hit two free throws after a technical foul on Haskins in the second half.
“We’re not last year’s team, but I’ve never coached a team with as much heart,” Rick Pitino said via the Washington Post. “We’ve now played five Big Ten schools, three Big East schools and two from the [Atlantic Coast Conference]; we’ve beaten two teams in the top five [Utah and Minnesota] to get to the championship game. I’m blown away by these guys — I don’t know how they do it.”
1998: No. 2 Kentucky 86, No. 3 Stanford 85 (OT)
Saturday, March 28, 1998
Stanford had a double-digit lead in the first half but Kentucky clawed its way back in trademark fashion to take the lead with ten minutes left. From there, it was big shot after big shot as each side refused to give in. Stanford star Mark Madsen converted a three-point play with three minutes left to put the Cardinal back up, but Jeff Sheppard hit back-to-back threes to give Kentucky a four-point lead with two minutes remaining. Arthur Lee hit a three with 24 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime, where Kentucky eventually ended up on top.
2011: No. 3 UConn 56, No. 4 Kentucky 55
Saturday, April 22, 2011
Kemba freaking Walker. Walker had 18 points, seven assists, and six rebounds and the Huskies held the Cats to 34% from the floor and scoreless for a five-minute stretch in the second half.
“I just think we missed a bunch of open shots,” Josh Harrellson said. “We had good looks, and we just weren’t knocking anything down. … We just couldn’t make anything.”
Brandon Knight had a team-high 17 points off 6-23 from the floor, followed by Doron Lamb with 13 and Terrence Jones with 11.
I’m breaking my “no highlights for losses” policy for this one.
2012: No. 1 Kentucky 69, No. 4 Louisville 61
Saturday, March 31, 2012
You know this one well. Anthony Davis led Kentucky with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks to advance to the program’s first national championship game since 1998. Louisville didn’t make it easy, winning the battle of the boards 40-33, but the Cats were just too good in every other facet of the game, shooting 57 percent from the floor. Davis only missed one of eight shots, and in the closing seconds, yelled, “This is MY state” (or something else, depending on your interpretation). Darius Miller and Doron Lamb also scored in double figures, with 13 and 10 respectively.
2014: No. 8 Kentucky 74, No. 2 Wisconsin 73
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Aaron Harrison did it again. His three with 5.7 seconds left gave Kentucky the 74-73 win to advance to the national championship game. It was his only three-point attempt that night.
Other stuff happened in this game, too. James Young scored 17, Julius Randle 16. But really, Aaron’s three is what we’ll all remember.