The Kentucky Wildcats rollercoaster ride of a season came up just a little short of giving the Big Blue Nation the ultimate thrill, as the Cats were upended by Connecticut in Monday night’s NCAA Championship Game 60-54.
Typical of their run to the championship game, the Kentucky Wildcats fell behind in the first half and then rallied to get themselves back in the contest before the break. After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Cats turned up the defense and got some big outside shots from James Young to cut Connecticut’s lead to just four at 35-31 by the time the teams went to the locker room.
With former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sitting alongside of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kentucky cut the lead to one early in the 2nd half, but saw UConn push it back out to nine. The Cats rallied again and got it back to one, but could never get to the lead.
Free throws were the story of the night, as Kentucky missed too many, and UConn just did not miss. Kentucky will also look back at missed opportunities in the second half, as there were several chances to take the lead with UConn holding the one point edge, but the Cats for this one game in the tournament could not push their way to the front.
UConn wins their 4th national championship in the last 15 years, and second in the past four. Kentucky wraps up the season at 29-11, while UConn finishes at 32-8. Shabazz Napier of Connecticut was named the Most Valuable Player of the Final Four.
Now the speculation will begin for Kentucky as to which players will head off to the NBA and which players will stay to try and make another run at the school’s 9th championship. There is a welcome home ceremony scheduled for Tuesday afternoon in Lexington for the Cats, who finish as the runner-up for the first time since 1997 when they lost to Arizona in overtime in the final game coached at UK by Rick Pitino.