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Pitino says he's in 'Cats corner

NEW ORLEANS — Louisville coach Rick Pitino is taking a stance that will probably make some Cardinals fans cringe: He's backing Kentucky in the NCAA national final.

Shortly after Louisville fell 69-61 to the Wildcats in the Final Four on Saturday night, Pitino said he hopes the Wildcats "bring it home for the state."

Pitino said he's well aware of the animosity fans of both teams have for one another and even made reference to a story about kidney dialysis patients who got into a fistfight.

"I just said to John (Calipari), 'I'll be pulling for you. Bring the trophy back home to Kentucky,' " Pitino said. "Sometimes, there's a lot of talk about these guys fighting, dialysis, there's also really a lot of people that get along. … For those that have brains, they root for each other. We like their basketball team."

The Louisville coach also coached at Kentucky in the 1990s and won a national title in 1998.

Rowdy celebration: Thousands of Kentucky fans swarmed streets on and off the campus in Lexington after the victory, setting couches ablaze and overturning cars.

Many streets had already been blocked off to make way for the crowds. But sirens blared and police began shutting down more streets as the blazes broke out.

Lexington city spokeswoman Susan Straub said police made fewer than 10 arrests, only a few injuries were reported and by 11 p.m., three hours after the game ended, crowds were dispersing.

"Things have not gotten out of control," she said.

NICE SEATS, COACH(ES): Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had no idea why he was sitting in the front row of a section of Louisville fans — especially since the Cardinals ended his season last weekend — other than he was supposed to have a bunch of well-known coaches along with him.

Every coach who has won a national title was given seats in the first row behind the media, Izzo said. It was a new gesture by the NCAA this season. Joining Izzo were North Carolina coach Roy Williams and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

"It's fun to be here," Izzo said, "but it's always more fun the way we've been here in the past."

JUDD JAZZED: Actor Ashley Judd has been one of the most visible supporters of Kentucky basketball over the years, showing up to games in Lexington and around the country. No way was she going to miss seeing the Wildcats face fierce rival Louisville in the Final Four.

Sitting in the front row behind Kentucky's bench inside the Superdome, Judd was decked out in blue and white as she awaited the most anticipated game in the heated in-state rivalry.

"It's just wonderful for the state," she said. "This is like the good ol' days. This is about history, it's about family."

KENTUCKY ROYALTY: Joining Judd courtside were hip-hop giant Jay-Z and Nike chairman Phil Knight.

WOODEN AWARD: Kentucky's Anthony Davis won the Wooden Award. He's the second freshman to win it after former University of Texas forward and current Oklahoma Thunder standout Kevin Durant accomplished the feat in 2007.

K-State hires Weber

Bruce Weber, fired as coach by Illinois last month, was hired by Kansas State. He replaces Frank Martin, who resigned to take over at South Carolina. Weber agreed to a five-year, $8.5 million contract that will pay him $1.5 million next season and an additional $100,000 each remaining year.

Pitino says he's in 'Cats corner 03/31/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 1, 2012 12:10am]
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