UK fans storm streets after win; no arrests made

shopkins@herald-leader.comMarch 28, 2011 

Hundreds of University of Kentucky men's basketball fans rushed to the intersection of Woodland and Euclid avenues after the team's win against the University of North Carolina on Sunday evening, advancing the squad to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four for the first time in 13 years.

With police cruisers and orange cones circling the intersection, fans parked their cars and ran down Euclid Avenue, clutching coolers and cameras.

Kim Judd watched the game at her home near Man o' War Boulevard and Armstrong Mill Road but found herself in the midst of the campus crowd, some 5 miles from her home, wearing a wide grin and taking pictures.

"It's been so long since we've been to the Final Four," Judd said, recalling the 1998 team that captured the national title. "And this team, they've worked so hard."

Chants erupted from the crowd every few seconds. Fists pumped the air. A shirtless guy was carried across the center of the horde.

"This is the greatest feeling," UK junior J.D. Hammer said. "I've waited for this since I was 8 years old. This is what college is all about."

There were reports of bonfires and unruly crowds across the city. Nearly every restaurant and bar on South Limestone near the UK campus had a multitude of people outside their doors. Drivers honked. And honked. And then honked some more.

Lexington police Lt. Chris Van Brackel said the crowds were well-behaved. He said police made no arrests and there were no injuries. Police also had to block a portion of South Limestone because of a large crowd. (In 1998, when UK took the title, 26 people were arrested.)

This was the culmination of a celebration that rarely ceased during the game.

At Pazzo's Pizza Pub on South Limestone, UK junior Taylor Sebastian predicted Kentucky would win the championship if the team made it through Sunday's game against North Carolina. He said he had cried when the team lost in the tournament's regional finals last year.

"Cats really are the most important thing in my life," Sebastian said.

Fans leaped on chairs at Winchell's Restaurant on Southland Drive, where there was not an empty table just before halftime.

"It's been crazy," said Brooklyn Taylor, a host at the restaurant, as the game continued after halftime. "I love being able to come in here and watch the game with the fans."

Nell Honican of Lexington sat with several friends at a table in the center of the dining room. She wore a foam basketball mask over her head as she shouted and pointed to the television during the game.

The group of friends had watched every tournament game while at the same table at Winchell's. And they all wore the same clothes during each game. Honican said she'd washed her T-shirt. Others, she said, had not.

Taylor said there were several regulars at the restaurant. She mocked a patron who had gone hoarse and predicted that she would probably lose her own voice before the night ended.

It became impossible to move through the center of the restaurant when the game ended as fans embraced and danced in the aisles. Jeans were cut into jorts — a nod to UK player Josh Harrellson, whose nickname is "Jorts."

Deborah Anderson of Lexington laughed about being accidentally punched in the face as someone reached to hug another fan. "I took a hit for the team," she said.

Brandon Brashears of Richmond said he was going insane and then expressed a sentiment likely on many other minds Sunday night: "This is the greatest day of my life."

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