By Nick Gray | @KYKernelGray
As Thursday afternoon turned into Thursday evening, Rupp Arena’s blue seats continued to be filled with red-clad fans.
Aside from a section in the lower bowl and eight rows in the upper deck filled with Davidson students and fans, these red fans were Louisville fans.
During any season, the sight of Louisville fans making up the majority of the attendance at any Rupp Arena event makes the blue blood of UK fans boil.
Pile on the extenuating circumstances, like the terms “NIT,” “Robert Morris” and “the No. 1 overall seeded Louisville Cardinals,” and the last thing Cats fans want is to see Rupp Arena filled with Cardinal red.
They did. Never has Rupp Arena seen so much red before.
In a scene similar to last season, when UK fans flocked to the KFC Yum! Center for the second- and third-round games hosted by Louisville, red and white was everywhere in sight, sans a smattering of North Carolina A&T fans, Missouri supporters and the green and gold Colorado State faithful.
Cardinals fans held the majority throughout the arena, appearing to account for at least 15,000 (maybe more) of the fans in attendance at raucous and red Rupp Arena during a game that was never in doubt.
Freshman nursing major Samantha Graziul attends UK and lives on campus. The caveat: Graziul is a Louisville fan. As she drove around Lexington prior to the 6:50 p.m. tip, she was pleased.
“I love seeing the red,” Graziul said. “It made me smile seeing everyone walking around Lexington because I always feel like I am the only one wearing red around campus and everyone said I should be scared but I could never be. But seeing red is always a plus, especially in Rupp.”
Graziul also said she felt a lot of joy watching UK lose Tuesday and miss the NCAA Tournament altogether.
“It honestly was the best feeling ever,” Graziul said. “I am not saying that Louisville is the best but it was a good feeling watching them not make (the NCAA Tournament) and kind of a disappointment (for UK fans), seeing how they won the title last year and lost the first round of the NIT (this year).”
Graziul attempted to buy a ticket and attend Thursday’s game, but failed to do so. Graziul said the only thing preventing her from attending Saturday’s game is work.
The Cardinals cruised to an easy 79-48 win over North Carolina A&T and have one more game in Rupp Arena on Saturday, where the situation will be identical to Thursday night.
Maybe it’s a good thing John Calipari was in New York City, recruiting and hosting Twitter followers at Orange Leaf, instead of witnessing his team’s home arena taken over by its most bitter rival.