In our look back at the Kentucky Wildcats’ past performances in the Sweet 16, we end with the eight third round (now fourth round!!) appearances the ‘Cats made between 1997 and 2010:
1997 — The No. 5 ranked ‘Cats (1 seed) were challenged early, but pulled away in the 2nd half as they claimed an 83-68 victory over No. 12 ranked St. Joseph’s (4). Ron Mercer led the UK charge with 19-points, and Cameron Mills, getting meaningful minutes because of the January ACL injury to star shooting guard Derek Anderson, also poured in 19-points on five of six three-point shooting. The “Turner Burner,” aka Wayne Turner, handed out six-assists and scored 16-points in the Kentucky cause. Leading the way for St. Joseph’s was Rashid Bay with 26-points and five-assists, and Dmitri Domani with 15-points. Kentucky would of course eventually lose in the National Championship game to Arizona in overtime. The ‘Cats finished Rick Pitino’s last season as UK coach with a 35-5 record.
1998 — In yet another Year of the ‘Cat, No. 5 ranked Kentucky rolled into the Sweet 16 to face long-time nemesis, the No. 19 ranked UCLA Bruins (6). Folks, it was no contest, as the focused ‘Cats laid waste to the Bruins by a count of 94-68. Junior forward Scott Padgett led the Wildcat way with 19-points and six-rebounds, while senior Jeff Sheppard (and future Final Four MOP) chipped in 16-points and four-rebounds. Big man Nazr Mohammed also had a nice game, putting up 15-points and seven-boards. The Bruins were led by Kris Johnson’s 18-points and eight-rebounds; Toby Bailey tossed in 16-points and grabbed 11-rebounds. The ‘Cats would go on to best both Stanford and Utah in the Final Four, winning the school’s 7th National Championship. Tubby Smith, in his first year as UK head man, finished the season with a sparkling 35-4 record.
1999 — The No. 8 ranked ‘Cats (3) came away a 58-43 winner over unranked Miami, OH (10) in a surprising Sweet 16 match-up. Once again, Scott Padgett led the Wildcat attack with 17-points, while Manhattan transfer (is that a singing group?) Heshimu Evans, ever the under-appreciated ‘Cat, scored 11-points, grabbed seven-rebounds, and dished out four-assists. The Red Hawks were led by the outstanding Wally Szczerbiak, who put up 23 on the ‘Cats in the loss. UK would go on to lose in the Elite Eight to Michigan State, ending Kentucky’s season with a 28-9 mark.
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2001 — In a significant upset, the No. 9 ranked Wildcats (2) went down to unranked Southern Cal (6) in the round of 16. The ‘Cats were led that day by Keith Bogans and his 23-points, along with big man Jason Parker and his 22-points and 13-rebounds. David Blumenthal led the Trojans with 27 big points, with Sam Clancy contributing 17-points and seven-rebounds. UK ended the year with a 24-10 record.
2002 — No. 16 ranked Kentucky (4) took on No. 4 ranked Maryland (1) and came out on the short end of a 78-68 contest — The Terps would go on to win the national title. UK was led in scoring by Tayshaun Prince with 17-points and seven-rebounds, while Cliff Hawkins, aka “The Hawk,” added six-points and seven-assists. Keith Bogans also had a nice game, scoring 15 for the ‘Cats. Maryland was led by the terrific Juan Dixon who had 19-points and seven-rebounds, while big man Lonny Baxter chipped in with 16 & 5. The ‘Cats ended the season with a 22-10 mark.
2003 — In a tight contest throughout, No. 1 ranked Kentucky (1) eked out a 63-57 victory over the No. 21 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (5). Having a marvelous game for the ‘Cats that day was Madison Central grad Marquis Estill, who dropped in 28-points and snagged six-rebounds, while Chuck Hayes grabbed seven-rebounds and scored four-points. The Badgers were led by Kirk Penney with 20-points, along with Devin Harris who scored 15 and dished out four dimes. UK’s leading scorer on the season, Keith Bogans, suffered a high ankle sprain in the ‘Cats victory, rendering his less-than-himself in UK’s Elite Eight match-up with Marquette, a game the ‘Cats would lose by 14. Kentucky ended the year with a 32-4 record after winning 26 straight contests during the course of the year, including all 19 SEC games.
2005 — The No. 5 ranked ‘Cats (2), once again in a Big Dance contest, confronted Rick Majerus and his No. 18 ranked Utah Runnin’ Utes (6). And UK continued their winning ways against Utah, coming out on top 62-52. In a balanced scoring attack in which 10 Wildcats scored, Chuck Hayes led the way with 12-points, with Rajon Rondo adding 10. The Utes were led by the outstanding Australian big man Andrew Bogut who scored 20-points and snagged 12-rebounds. UK would go on to the Elite Eight and lose to Michigan State in double-overtime in a classic NCAA game in which Patrick Sparks ended a furious Kentucky rally by nailing a three-pointer (which was reviewed for five minutes) as time expired, sending the contest into its first overtime. The ‘Cats ended the year with an excellent 28-6 record.
2010 — In John Calipari’s first season as the Kentucky coach, the No. 2 ranked Wildcats bested the Ivy Leagues best, the Cornell Big Red, by a score of 62-45. Future NBA stars DeMarcus Cousins led the youthful ‘Cats with 16-points and seven-rebounds, Eric Bledsoe contributed 12 & five, and the human blue blur, John Wall, added eight-points and eight-assists. Louis Dale (no relation to coach Norman Dale) led the valiant Cornell effort with 17-points and four-boards. Of course, Kentucky would go historically cold from beyond the arc in the round of eight, losing to the Mountaineers of West Virginia. The Wildcats ended one of the most enjoyable UK seasons in quite some time with a 35-3 mark.
Joe B. belongs in the Hall!