Best of UK in the NCAA: National Championship Highlights


Tonight should have been the 2020 National Championship game, so let’s put an end to March Sadness by reliving Kentucky’s NCAA title game appearances from the past 30 years.

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

1996: No. 1 Kentucky 76, No. 4 Syracuse 67

Monday, April 1, 1996

Tony Delk tied a championship game record with seven 3-pointers and Kentucky held off a late Syracuse rally to claim the program’s sixth national championship in the Meadowlands. The Cats were up by 13 in the second half, but the Orangemen narrowed the lead to two with just under five minutes left. From there, Walter McCarty tipped in a Tony Delk miss to push the lead back to four and Derek Anderson’s three extended it to seven. Kentucky held Syracuse to only one basket in the final 3:23.

Delk was named Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the Final Four All-Tournament Team by freshman Ron Mercer, who scored a career-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting from the field, including 3-4 from 3-point range.


Complete game:

“One Shining Moment”:

1997: No. 4 Arizona 84, No. 1 Kentucky 79 (OT)

Monday, March 31, 1997

A year later, the Cats would not be so lucky. Kentucky came back to force overtime thanks to a three by Anthony Epps with 12.1 seconds left and held Arizona without a field goal in overtime, but the other Wildcats made 10 of 14 free throws in OT to escape with the win. Arizona’s Miles Simon was 14-17 from the free throw line en route to 30 points and Most Outstanding Player honors. Scott Padgett led Kentucky with 17 points, but made only 5-16 from the floor and fouled out. Ron Mercer was held to 13 points after averaging 17 in Kentucky’s previous tournament victories.

No need to relive that one any more.

1998: No. 2 Kentucky 78, No. 3 Utah 69

Monday, March 30, 1998

This one should be fresh in your memory after Saturday’s radio replay. The Comeback Cats did it again, rallying from a 41-31 halftime deficit to win the program’s seventh national championship at the Alamodome. Rick Majerus’ squad owned the boards 24-6 in the first half, but Heshimu Evans came off the bench and scored seven straight to spark Kentucky’s comeback in the second half. Jeff Sheppard’s baseline jumper with just under five minutes left gave Kentucky a 65-64 lead, and Utah missed 11 straight field goals down the stretch.

Sheppard finished with 16 points (7-14 FG) and was named Most Outstanding Player. Scott Padgett, who had a team-high 17 points, was also named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team.


Complete game:

“One Shining Moment”:

Getty Images

2012: No. 1 Kentucky 67, No. 2 Kansas 59

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jack Pilgrim’s going to have an in-depth look at this game for you a little later, but a quick refresher. Doron Lamb led Kentucky in scoring with 22 points, including back-to-back threes to put the Cats up by 16 with ten minutes to go. Kansas came back to cut the lead to five with 1:37 left, but the Cats hit five straight free throws to put the program’s eighth national championship on ice.

Anthony Davis made only one field goal, but made up for it with 16 rebounds and six blocks en route to Most Outstanding Player honors. He was joined by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb on the Final Four All-Tournament Team.


Complete game:

“One Shining Moment”:

Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

2014: No. 7 UConn 60, No. 8 Kentucky 54

Monday, April 7, 2014

Once again, Kentucky’s magical run was ended by UConn. This time, Shabazz Napier played the villain, scoring 22 points to lead the Huskies to the title. Kentucky never led, but cut the deficit to one with eight minutes left. Aaron Harrison had a look from beyond the arc to give Kentucky the lead, but missed. That was pretty much it. Eleven missed free throws certainly didn’t help.

I can’t end on that note, so here is James Young’s dunk that would have gone down in history had the Cats won.


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