I’ve had many great memories at Kentucky basketball games throughout my extensive college career, but nothing will come close to topping what happened in the United Center last December. I’ve been a part of great wins – Davis Blocks Henson, Randle and Co defeat UofL – but none were as fun as whipping a traditional powerhouse in front of a nationally televised audience. The happiness is hard to describe, so I’ll just give you a few tidbits from my greatest experience as a UK fan.
5. United Center Lower Level Seats
Talking heads love to hate on Cal for playing the best non-conference games of the year at neutral sites, but they have the best seating opportunities, especially if the Cats are the second game. If you wait for the first game to end, then enter the lower level when other fans are leaving, the crowd is too much for ushers to look at your tickets. My crew was about 15 rows from the floor, the perfect place to be in awe of Kentucky’s enormous size.
4. The Laughter
It’s usually a feeling not expressed during big games. The anxiety is usually too much, but not for this game. The pure joy from UK fans was infectious. We had North Carolina and Ohio State fans cheering for Kentucky and laughing at UCLA’s demise.
3. The Applause when UCLA Finally Scored
Watching UCLA stumble around the court more closely resembled the Three Stooges than a basketball team. They weren’t just missing deep shots, they were getting open opportunities from close range but couldn’t put the ball in the basket. Kentucky had mentally crushed their souls and they couldn’t escape the vortex until 8 minutes into the game. When the scoreboard flashed 24-2, the entire arena gave them a standing ovation for getting over the hump. It was a tongue-in-cheek applause and the only one they got all game.
2. Thomas Welsh’s Enthusiasm
There was no person more entertaining in the United Center the Thomas Welsh. The backup center had an All-American performance as “bench hype man.” Every time UCLA did something remotely close to “good,” he was cheering his teammates along. Even down 40, he was pumping his guys up. When Bryce Alford starting hitting threes in the second half, Welsh’ response made you think he just hit a NCAA Tournament game-winner. We spent the entire second half intently watching Welsh. The only thing more entertaining was their goofy mascot, and that’s a push. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on Welsh tonight, because he’s the best thing UCLA is bringing to the table not named Alford.
1. The Halftime Scoreboard
Soak it in, because something like this won’t happen again.