NCAA champion 1998

Cinderella's slipper fits, and the 'Comeback Cats' add another title

December 23, 2009 

  • Record: 35-4

    Coach: Tubby Smith

    Starters: Allen Edwards, Scott Padgett, Nazr Mohammed, Jeff Sheppard, Wayne Turner

    NCAA finals: Beat Utah 78-69 (Padgett 17 points, Sheppard 16)

    Average margin in NCAA Tournament: 15.0 (six games)

    Team's legacy: The Comeback Cats rallied from halftime deficits to win their final three games of the NCAA tourney. Avenged the "ghost of Laettner" by erasing a 17-point second-half deficit to beat Duke in the South Regional finals. Joined the 1958 team as UK's "Cinderella" champions. Made Kentucky the first school to win NCAA titles under four coaches.

    From Sheppard: "Mentality won us the championship. Not plays or the press or a philosophy on the court. Could some other coach have done that? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. (Smith) definitely did it."

  • 1997-98 roster

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

    3 Allen Edwards G-F Sr. 6-5 205 Miami, Fla.

    4 Steve Masiello G So. 6-1 170 White Plains, N.Y.

    5 Wayne Turner G Jr. 6-2 190 Boston

    11 Saul Smith G Fr. 6-2 175 Athens, Ga.

    13 Nazr Mohammed C Jr. 6-10 238 Chicago

    14 Heshimu Evans F Jr. 6-6 215 Bronx, N.Y.

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

    21 Cameron Mills G Sr. 6-3 181 Lexington

    22 Ryan Hogan G Fr. 6-3 193 Deerfield, Ill.

    25 Myron Anthony F Fr. 6-7 225 Neptune Beach, Fla.

    33 Michael Bradley C Fr. 6-10 235 Worcester, Mass.

    34 Scott Padgett F Jr. 6-9 240 Louisville

    42 Jamaal Magloire C So. 6-10 260 Toronto, Ontario

In all of Kentucky's basketball history, the 1958 Wildcats were the only Cinderella team to claim a national championship.

But on the 40-year anniversary of The Fiddlin' Five, another UK team produced an unexpected national title.

After two home losses in February, few saw a deep March run for Tubby Smith's first UK team. Once tournament play started, however, a roster made up of veteran "role players" left over from the prior two UK teams showed they were ready for prime time themselves.

After winning the SEC tourney, UK scored three easy wins in NCAA play. All that stood between the Cats and a third straight Final Four was Duke.

The Blue Devils led by 17 with less than 10 minutes to go. But led by Wayne Turner's penetrating drives, UK launched a rally that culminated when cold-blooded three-pointers from Cameron Mills and Scott Padgett gave UK an 86-84 win. The Comeback Cats won twice more to claim the title.

herald-Leader Staff report

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