Fans spur UK to win SEC Tournament in Atlanta

By Tomi Morris Johnson

tomij@wingcomltd.com   ©2004 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

March 14, 2004, Atlanta, GA…Blowing out a win over the Florida Gators, the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team continues down a path it has trod 25 times before on its way to becoming NCAA champions.  They could not have made it, though, without their diehard, dedicated fans.

Lionhearted UK fans caught stuffed gators in a fishing net before cheering the Wildcats during the SEC tournament.

Trained and led by former University of Georgia Coach Tubby Smith, the Wildcats appeared in the Georgia Dome and won 89-73.  First to score, the team never trailed Florida and was cheered on by an estimated 18,000 Bluegrass supporters.

Tubby Smith led team to victory. UK President and wife were elated at the halftime score. Signed basketballs were souvenir favorites.

Kentucky fans appear to be one of the most loyal groups in the nation as was evident in the number of blue and white-clad bodies inside and outside the stadium.  It seemed like one big happy family– in the lobby of the Hyatt hotel where the players and staff were staying, outside the Dome, and cheering in the stands.

Twins sport “GO CATS GO” bibs. Donna Smith and Monica Smith pose for photo op. A loyal young fan shows off autographed hat.

“This is so exciting,” said Ilea Johnson of Marietta whose parents once lived and worked in Lexington, Kentucky.  “I have never seen so many people behind one team!”

Player’s dad spotted in stands along with model Ilea Johnson.  Former UK basketball player Sam Bowie eyes score while wife watches.

Fans started filing out of the stadium during the last three minutes of play, self-assured that a Wildcat victory in “Cat-Lanta” was a sure thing. Kentucky advances to the next stage with hopes of playing in the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas later this year.

The information in this article is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.