"If anyone had told me that before the game, I would have figured the team would have won," said Kentucky junior Patrick Patterson.
Instead, West Virginia made 10 of 23 3-point shots, including eight of 15 the first half, and beat Patterson's Wildcats 73-66 here Saturday night in the NCAA East Region championship.
Patterson came back to UK this year rather than going to the NBA to get his degree, play in his first NCAA Tournament and win a national championship. He went 2-for-3, but coming up empty Saturday was a bitter pill for UK's team leader to swallow.
"From last year to this year, it's no comparison. We went from the NIT to the Elite Eight," said Patterson. "We improved and got Kentucky basketball back where it was and should be. We are not satisfied, though, being 35-3. "We are proud that a bunch of young guys and guys that had not been around each other before did what we did, but we wanted to win the national championship. That is what it is all about."
Patterson knew this year could be special when new coach John Calipari arrived and brought in the nation's top-ranked recruiting class. Suddenly the help he was missing his first two years at Kentucky under Billy Gillispie was surrounding him on the court.
He had 13 rebounds, but only eight points on 3-for-7 shooting Saturday in what probably will be his final collegiate game since he's projected as a lottery pick in the June NBA draft.
"We believed this year could be special. We wanted to be one of the greatest teams to play here at Kentucky. We wanted to be historic and be remembered by everybody around the world and especially in Kentucky," Patterson said as he wipe away several tears.
"We really wanted that national championship. We believed the expectations could come true. It was all about us having the willpower to get it done and we didn't get it done tonight.
"We had the talent. We looked great on paper. When you read up on everybody and see points scored and stuff, we had the players. The attitude this year was a huge change. Everyone had more fun — or we did until tonight.
"We know we didn't meet expectations last year, but we didn't have all these stud newcomers we had this year. But we let it slip away to a team that played harder and better than us."
Patterson was disappointed in UK's defense. "We had been playing good defense, especially against Wake Forest and Cornell in the tournament," Patterson said. "But not tonight. We just didn't do what we had to do." However, this loss left him with no regrets about his decision to come back to UK.
"I have no regrets at all," he said. "I improved as a player and became a better person. I developed great relationships and met great coaches. I am definitely satisfied with my decision to come back because we had a great year.
"Hopefully one day I will look back on this as a stepping stone to getting Kentucky back to the powerhouse it should be. I will be able to look back at this as a special year and remember the great times we had.
"I am trying real hard right now not to hang my head, but it is hard. This was our year. We all knew it and we just didn't get it done. You don't easily forget that."