First, Kentucky fans poured into Lexington bars or parties Friday night to witness the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team battle UCLA in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Then after UK’s commanding 86-75 win, they streamed toward the traditional celebration station, State Street, where exuberant fans sprayed beer, hugged and bumped chests. Soon after, the first fires were set to empty beer boxes, hats and whatever was at hand, sweatshirts, pieces of paper. A box fire was also reported on Aylesford Place.
Although the crowds eventually lessened, a core group of fans kept the party going past 2 a.m., continuing to start small fires and breaking beer bottles. Broken glass covered the street. Occasional fights broke out. City street-sweepers were used to clear the road of revelers about 2:30 a.m.
Streets closed by police for post-game celebrations included State and Elizabeth streets and Crescent and University avenues. Police in SWAT gear also gathered to keep an eye on the festivities.
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Police reported one person taken to the hospital after falling from a balcony on Forest Park. Three other people were taken to the hospital for intoxication. Two people were arrested for intoxication and disorderly conduct, police said.
Senior Jake Tapia said he was thrilled to return to State Street to celebrate the Cats.
“We just celebrated our Sweet 16 win,” he said. “It feels good.”
Tapia said he was a little disappointed by the crowd, which was smaller than in past years after Kentucky’s NCAA tournament games, but he expected it will get bigger as Kentucky’s tournament wins accumulate.
“I hope it does escalate,” he said.
Earlier in the evening, fans had waited in line to get into The Bar on South Limestone, crowded around the large screen TV in the Tin Roof parking lot, and even watched the game on a projector on State Street, using a student house wall as as a screen.
Sarah McGarey and several friends watched the game from Soundbar on South Limestone. The Lexington native said the bar was much less crowded than UK student favorites.
“It was the perfect place to watch the game,” McGarvey said. But McGarvey and her friends were making their way down to Limestone favorite Two Keys to celebrate UK’s win.
Mohammed Alshangiti a UK sophomore stood at the corner of Maxwell and Limestone streets after UK's victory pondering where to party.
“We're trying to figure out if we are going to go downtown or State Street,” he said. Adding that after UK’s poor tournament performance last year, it was great to see UK advance late Friday night.
The Kentucky Theatre also continued its tradition of opening its doors to Cats fans, where they watched the nail-biting contest downtown.
Derek Rockhill, a UK fan for about 18 years, watched the game at The Casual Pint, a bar on Main Street. Rockhill said he thought Friday's game would be closer and credited UK's win to the defense. Rockhill said he likes UK’s chances against the University of North Carolina on Sunday.
“We don't have an easy game left,” he said.