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Kentucky on the comeback trail

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

For the Kentucky faithful, and up and down season came to an end Thursday afternoon. The Wildcats gave it their best shot, but in the end it was too much of Marquette's guards as the Golden Eagles prevailed, 74-66.

Think about the season for the Wildcats. There were early struggles as the team went 6-7 in non-conference play. A lot was made about losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego.

This squad adjusted to coach Billy Gillispie's system. This team responded big-time in conference play, going 12-4 in the SEC. That made the difference as Kentucky made the big dance once again.

Now it is time for the Gillispie-led program to kick into high gear. Remember, this game might have had a different ending if Patrick Patterson was healthy and in the lineup. Patterson is the best diaper dandy I have seen on the Lexington campus in over a decade.

The Wildcats will add 6-6 guard DeAndre Liggins and 6-6 forward Darius Miller out of the bluegrass state next season and that will be a positive.

It is sad to say farewell to Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. Those guys played their hearts out against Marquette and Crawford was the star of stars, even in defeat.

'Cats fans are among the most passionate in all of college basketball. They will have plenty to cheer about in the future with Gillispie running the show.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.