Cards party draws thousands to KFC Yum! Center - News, Weather & Sports

Cards party draws thousands to KFC Yum! Center

Kevin Ware Kevin Ware
Rick Pitino Rick Pitino
Jeff Walz getting a congratulatory hug from Tom Jurich. Jeff Walz getting a congratulatory hug from Tom Jurich.
Shoni Schimmel Shoni Schimmel
Russ Smith Russ Smith

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It was the party University of Louisville Cardinal basketball fans have been waiting for – a chance to finally thank and congratulate the NCAA National Champions and the National Runner Up for a magical season.

Thousands of Card fans filled the KFC Yum! Center to make sure their National Runner up, their National Champions and their coaches entered the building like rock stars. To the surprise of no one, some of the loudest cheers came for injured guard Kevin Ware.

"We just put in our minds that we were going to win a National Championship and that's what we did," Ware told the crowd, "but without you guys, we wouldn't be here and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

"They knew they had the character, said Coach Rick Pitino of his team, "they knew they had the talent and they knew they had the assistant coaches to get them through some great scouting reports," he continued, "without question, they wanted to do it for you, the people who have been behind them from day one."

Athletic Director Tom Jurich thanked Women's Head Coach Jeff Walz for one of the best upsets in college basketball as the Uof L women knocked off Number 1 Baylor.

Party crasher and Cardinal Star Shoni Schimmel summed it up best.

"I just want to say thank you to all the fans and everybody out there supporting everyone," Schimmel said, "it means a lot to us and especially to the ones far away from home."

Schimmel finished by saying, "Thank you for everything and we'll be back next year, don't worry."

Jurich has much to be proud of. The Cardinals followed a Sugar Bowl win over Florida with the top team in men's basketball and the women's National Runner-Up. 

"I said it many years ago, this is the best college sports town in America and I got criticized for it," Jurich told the crowd. "We've got the best president at a university in Dr. (James) Ramsey, he's the very best and we've got the greatest coaches all across the board."

Center Gorgui Dieng who is weighing and will likely go to the NBA got a standing ovation to chants of one more year and then the crowd followed that with," Russ, Russ, Russ."

After hearing another fan favorite would be leaving with senior Peyton Siva, Russ Smith who's entering the NBA draft wasn't getting away without taking the mic. 

"I want to say thank you to all the fans who didn't give up on us last year," Smith said, "and we went on that amazing Final Four run." Smith told them, "I'll never forget this place and I love you guys."

As big as the celebration was inside, the fans weren't ready to let their teams go. They lined up outside with a Card March to say goodbye as the teams got on their buses.

Jurich also thanked fans for showing up in great numbers starting with turning Lexington's Rupp Arena red. He also told the crowd the fans were the greatest "7th man." Jurich said they would have been the 6th man if not for the stellar performances of the actual 6th man, Final Four MVP Luke Hancock.

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