The University of Kentucky was in familiar territory on Sunday when the Wildcats took North Carolina down to the final seconds of their contest in the South Regional final.
Unfortunately for Kentucky fans, that place was on the losing end of a miraculous last-second shot.
Trailing 73-70 with 10 seconds left, Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk hit an off-balanced shot over two defenders to tie the game at 73 apiece. North Carolina raced to the opposite end of the floor without using a timeout, and Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye wide open near the three-point line. Luke Maye calmly sank the 20-footer, giving North Carolina a 75-73 with 0.3 seconds remaining in the game.
A late heave down the court for Kentucky went out of bounds without ever being touched, leaving North Carolina with a win in dramatic fashion. In a battle of blue bloods, North Carolina was able to end the Wildcats’ run in the NCAA South Regional Final.
For Wildcat fans, the loss would dredge up feelings that still haunts the Kentucky faithful 25 years later. In one of the all-time great NCAA Tournament games, Kentucky led Duke 103-102 in overtime with 2.1 seconds remaining. Then, a baseball inbounds pass found Christian Laettner under the basketball, giving him a chance to hit a fade away basketball as time expired.
While Kentucky fans may have multiple — and perhaps more vulgar — names for the turn around jumper, most NCAA basketball fans simply refer to it as “The Shot.”
The North Carolina loss is just two days shy of the 25-year anniversary of “The Shot.” Will the classic contest between Kentucky and North Carolina on Sunday go down as “The Shot, Part 2” for the Wildcats?
There are several similarities between the two losses beyond the final shot deciding a classic contest. Both contests happened in the Elite Eight, and both losses were to Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
North Carolina hopes the similarities between the two victories don’t end there. Duke took the momentum from that victory with them to the 1992 Final Four. The Blue Devils easily defeated Michigan in the final game to win their second consecutive championship. North Carolina has a shot for similar results as the Tar Heels look to avenge last season’s heart-breaking loss in the NCAA Championship game to Villanova.
Kentucky fans have certainly taken the loss hard. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the Wildcat faithful have taken to the streets to violently mourn their last-second loss, tossing trash and starting fires on a near-by street to the university. Police dressed in tactical gear were on the scene within five minutes, closing the street off to traffic to avoid any issues.
Lexington police were prepared for such reaction, however. The Wildcat fans had a similar reaction in 2015 in their team’s unexpected loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four, according to the New York Daily News. Police said at the time that 1,500 fans overtook State Street near the college, resulting in 31 arrests from incidents associated with the demonstration.
While North Carolina marches on in the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats’ season comes to an end with a 32-6 record. Next season’s team stands to look completely different as the Wildcats could have six or more players leaving after this year. In addition to seniors Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder, draft projections show that Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox, and Bam Adebayo would be first-round picks in the 2017 NBA draft.
Do you think the loss to North Carolina or Duke was more heart-breaking for Kentucky Wildcat fans? Follow the Inquisitr on Twitter (@InquisitrSports) to join in on the conversation about which version of “The Shot” is a more bitter pill to swallow for Kentucky Wildcat faithful.
[Featured Image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]