Men's Basketball

Fans of three Kentucky schools cheer their teams at NCAA Tournament in Louisville

The  Kentucky Wildcat and Julie Hardesty of Louisville danced at a pregame pep rally Thursday near the KFC Yum Center.
The Kentucky Wildcat and Julie Hardesty of Louisville danced at a pregame pep rally Thursday near the KFC Yum Center. Herald-Leader

LOUISVILLE — Understand this: Nothing, absolutely nothing, was going to dampen Penny Lewis' enthusiasm for her Kentucky Wildcats.

Not rumbles of thunder. Not a little shower here and there.

"The little rain is not stopping us," the Lexington woman said. "I was going to bring my raincoat. I left it. Let me just drench in a big W!" — meaning a Kentucky win.

She and friends Vickie Woolfolk, Doris Craig, Al Wess and LaVern Blythe were pumped for the NCAA Tournament's South Regional second-round game on Thursday. As they rounded a corner near the Troll Pub across the street from the KFC Yum Center, the group yelled its support for another fan wearing his hair in dyed blue spikes.

"This is Blueville all the way!" Craig cheered. "We're going to take this! We want it and we're going to get it!"

They got their wish as the Cats beat Western Kentucky 81-66.

"I thought UK's athleticism definitely showed they were the dominant team," said Blair Norton, 29, of Louisville.

"They played good team ball," said Brett Akers, 42, of Prestonsburg. "Everybody came back together, and they're ready to make that run for the tournament."

To have the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University and Murray State University all playing in the same venue on the same day put a lot of fans in a good mood.

Belinda and Terry Corder of Richmond said they felt as if they'd won the lottery. They both graduated from WKU but are big Kentucky fans. They wore UK blue but had red WKU towels to twirl.

"The only thing that would have made it better is if Louisville could have been here, too," Terry Corder said.

"I've told friends that what's great about it is, I get to cheer every basket," Belinda Corder said.

Holly and Brad Norsworthy of Brandenburg said they had reason to cheer more than one team as well.

"We both went to Murray State and we're both Kentucky fans, so we're here to cheer on both teams today," Holly Norsworthy said.

Bars and restaurants near the Yum Center were packed. At 5 p.m., many UK fans crowded around the pep band and cheerleaders outside O'Shea's, a pub across the street from the arena.

Fans took turns dancing with the Wildcat mascot, chanted "Go Big Blue!" in unison, and sang along to the UK fight song.

Above the chanting crowd, someone held a huge cardboard cutout of former Indiana University Coach Bobby Knight's face outside a third-floor window. Knight's face sported the unibrow of UK's Anthony Davis.

Said John "Bubba" Shown of Owensboro, who planned to cheer for Kentucky and Western, "I think it's a great day for the state."