Cheers turned into dejection as Kentucky fans watched the Wildcats battle and ultimately lose Sunday to the University of North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
“Big letdown,” said Cheyenne Burnig, who watched the game in the State Street area. “It’s gonna change the atmosphere on the campus for a little bit.”
The mood on State Street was somber as fans milled around and began emptying out of houses that had previously been scenes of celebration.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Collin Pitzer. “I figured UNC would come out wanting to win, seeing as that we beat them earlier in the season.
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“It’s a tough outcome, but there’s always next year.”
As sorrow turned to bitterness, small groups on State Street began to shout obscenities and start fires that were quickly extinguished. Police had shut down traffic on State Street with about five minutes left in the game. Officers in riot gear took positions in yards.
“Now it’s a little more angry,” said UK sophomore Kendall Russell.
Those gathered quickly dispersed after street sweepers came through just after 8:30 p.m. City officials said there were no arrests or significant fires in the aftermath of the game.
The crowd of about 200 people at the Kentucky Theatre, where there had been chants of “Go Big Blue” earlier, grew quiet as North Carolina took and kept the lead.
“So disappointing, so close,” said Lea Green. “An instant classic. One for the history books.”
Bars on Limestone Street were packed to overflowing for the game, and fans considered it a good omen when a rainbow appeared overhead.
But after the game, many of the bars emptied and those that remained expressed dismay.
Aly Foster, a 2003 UK graduate, said that if UK had played the way they did against UCLA on Friday, they would have won “hands down.”
“I do feel like we weren’t cohesive as a team,” she said.
Charlie Sandberg kept a positive outlook.
“We might’ve lost by two but we won in school spirit. I think we killed it,” he said. “New year, new team, new championship. It all starts from the ground up.”