Today was a very special day inside Rupp Arena as one of the greatest eras of Kentucky Basketball was honored, and the Cats made sure everyone went home happy thanks to a 66-54 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.
At halftime, UK honored the 1996, ‘97 and ‘98 teams, who combined to make three Final Fours and win two national championships. They also went 6-0 vs. the Vols, so it was only appropriate Kentucky won today to complete the season sweep of their border rivals.
Prior to the game, UK got a pep talk from former head coach Tubby Smith, who helped the Wildcats win the 1998 NCAA Championship in his first year as the program’s head coach. He even had his jersey retired into Rupp’s rafters in December of 2021.
As you can imagine, Coach Smith got a strong ovation during the halftime festivities.
John Calipari said Tubby Smith spoke to the team at shootaround today and had two messages:— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 18, 2023
1) Halftime score is irrelevant (maybe not today, lol)
2) Mentioned 1997-98 team losing three games at home, including Ole Miss. That group, of course, went on to win the title.
Really cool to hear Tubby Smith get a huge pop from the Rupp crowd, biggest of the 1996-98 celebration, and then a “Tubby! Tubby! Tubby!” chant break out. pic.twitter.com/BUOkBkOHEC— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 18, 2023
And of course, Coach Smith was there to celebrate the big victory during the postgame locker room.