NCAA champion 1996

Cats produce a 27-game winning streak and end an 18-year drought

December 23, 2009 

  • 1995-96 roster

    No. Player Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt. Hometown

    00 Tony Delk G Sr. 6-1 193 Brownsville, Tenn.

    3 Allen Edwards G/F So. 6-5 205 Miami

    5 Wayne Turner G Fr. 6-2 190 Boston

    13 Nazr Mohammed C Fr. 6-10 238 Chicago

    15 Jeff Sheppard G Jr. 6-4 189 Peachtree City, Ga.

    21 Cameron Mills G So. 6-3 181 Lexington

    23 Derek Anderson G Jr. 6-6 194 Louisville

    24 Antoine Walker F So. 6-8 224 Chicago

    25 Anthony Epps G Jr. 6-2 182 Lebanon

    32 Jared Prickett F Red. 6-9 235 Fairmont, W.Va.

    33 Ron Mercer F Fr. 6-7 210 Nashville

    40 Walter McCarty F Sr. 6-11 230 Evansville, Ind.

    41 Mark Pope C Sr. 6-10 235 Bellevue, Wash.

    43 Jason Lathrem F Fr. 6-5 210 Bowling Green

    51 Oliver Simmons F Fr. 6-8 218 Nashville

  • Record: 34-2

    Coach: Rick Pitino

    Starters: Derek Anderson, Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Tony Delk, Anthony Epps

    NCAA finals: Beat Syracuse 76-67 (Delk 24 points, Ron Mercer 20 off the bench)

    Average margin in NCAA Tournament: 21.5 points (six games)

    Team's legacy: Perhaps the quickest, deepest team in UK history; will be remembered for its devastating runs and being the first team to go unbeaten in the SEC regular season in 40 years; made Kentucky the first school to win NCAA titles under three different coaches.

    From Delk, who tied the finals record with seven three-pointers: "It's a feeling not too many players get, that many good looks. I owe it to my teammates for penetrating and looking for me.''

If the aspirations of Kentucky fans were the total subjugation of college basketball, the 1996 Wildcats were as close as UK has come in the modern era.

After an early loss to John Calipari and Massachusetts, Rick Pitino ended an experiment with Tony Delk at point guard and installed Anthony Epps as his team's quarterback.

With the heady Epps distributing the ball to a loaded roster that included nine players who would eventually play in the NBA, Kentucky won its next 27 games. During that streak, only two teams (Indiana and Georgia) even played UK within single-digit margins of defeat.

In the Big Dance, the Cats won their first four tourney games by margins of 38, 24, 31 and 20 points (the latter over Tim Duncan and Wake Forest).

The Final Four brought a rematch with Marcus Camby and UMass. In a fiercely contested game, UK prevailed 81-74.

Against Syracuse in the finals, Delk scored 24 points and freshman Ron Mercer had 20 off the bench as UK claimed its first national title in 18 years.

Herald-Leader staff report

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