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College Basketball

Kentucky’s Magical Run Ended In Lunacy

Gif: ESPN

Season turnarounds don’t get much more dramatic than Kentucky’s. A month ago, their conference record was 2-8, neither of the wins particularly impressive, none of the losses particularly close. But that eighth loss, to South Carolina in mid-February, seems like it flipped a switch. The Wildcats won their six remaining games and looked like one of the conference’s hottest teams entering the SEC Tournament last week.

All tournament long, the incredible run continued: In the quarterfinals, they made Kim Mulkey extremely angry, which is not that hard to do, but also upset her No. 6 LSU Tigers, which is. (“I’m not a big proponent of conference tournaments,” Mulkey said after the loss.) Star senior Rhyne Howard played some of her best basketball against No. 18 Tennessee in the semifinal game, which Kentucky led wire-to-wire.

Sunday, Kentucky pulled off a crazy fourth-quarter comeback to win the SEC title over national championship favorite South Carolina, for UK’s first tournament title since 1982. A three from Dre’una Edwards with less than five seconds left capped off a 27-point game for the junior forward and an 11-0 Kentucky closing run, put the Wildcats up two, and produced one of those great college basketball wins where everyone is going nuts. Here is the game’s delightful final sequence in full, the highlight of which is Edwards’s postgame interview at the 1:42-mark. This is the best: a deliriously happy player who is not really listening to the questions by the end and a reporter who is entertained enough to not care.

It was after Edwards’s second “and we turned it up!” that I felt ready to run through a wall. Simply let all of the joy here wash over you: Head coach Kyra Elzy’s little sideline dance in heels, all the hugging, everyone crying. “I want to keep crying, but I can’t cry no more. I don’t have any tears left,” Edwards said in a calmer postgame presser. John Calipari, there as a spectator, tweeted that he lost his lucky Rolex because he’d thrown his arms in the air celebrating Edwards’s shot.

He offered a reward to anyone who could find it, and later followed up to say that Elzy had. What a day for her.