UK overcomes road environment and will next play closer to home


Kentucky’s bench celebrates after a three during the game against Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Boise, Idaho. Kentucky defeated Buffalo 95-75. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Usually when UK plays at neutral site games, fans travel to the arena to create a makeshift home environment outside of Rupp Arena. 

While plenty of fans traveled to Boise for UK’s second round matchup of the NCAA Tournament, Taco Bell Arena was full of fans pulling for Buffalo, hoping the Bulls would pull off another upset.

“Everyone is going to go for the underdog, I don’t think half these people in the gym knew where Buffalo is or who anybody on the team is, they just going for the underdog,” Kevin Knox said.

Many times the pro-Buffalo crowd would chant, “de-fense!” or, “go Bulls go!” in hopes to rally the team to its first Sweet 16 in program history.

The fans were possibly at their loudest at the 7:10 mark of the first half, when CJ Massinburg made Buffalo’s third three in 3:33 to trim UK’s lead to five. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would respond with a three of his own, and afterwards, he put a finger to his lips while instructing the crowd to shush.

“We love the road games, we thrive in the road games and we did today,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the environment.

The win against Buffalo now sends the Cats to Atlanta, where they will play in the Sweet 16 and potentially the Elite 8. 

Players are excited for the trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but they’re also looking forward to having the crowd back on their side. 

“Cal just told us that it’s called Cat-lanta, so we’ll have at least 100,000 people probably there to watch the game,” Knox said.

However, some of those fans could be cheering against the Cats if the crowd wants to see more upsets. UK will play the winner of No. 9 seed Kansas State and No. 16 seed UMBC in the Sweet 16, and could possibly see another seed lower than their own in the Elite 8.

UMBC has been the talk of the tournament after pulling off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, possibly the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament. Knox was watching the game last night, and just like the rest of the country, he couldn’t believe the upset happened.

“It was shocking to see, I watched the game,” Knox said. “Virginia didn’t play as well as they’ve played all year, it was really sad to see them go out there early.”

No matter who UK faces, they won’t let the preferences of the crowd dictate how the game will be played.

“We don’t care who we play, we just going to come in with the mindset that we can beat anybody, keep playing the way we’ve been playing and just keep fighting,” Knox said. “…Some of us will probably watch the game tomorrow to see who we end up playing, but at this point, the way we’re playing right now, I feel like we can beat anybody.”