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In an intense rivalry game, sides are chosen and lines are drawn.
But when the last two NCAA men’s basketball national champions square off and they are playing one of the biggest rivalry games in the country, some fans put on their apparel and head out to enjoy the game and the atmosphere that comes along with it.
At Otter Creek Tavern, just across the Hardin-Meade County line, it was no different Saturday. Fans clad in University of Kentucky blue or University of Louisville red came in to see watch Battle of the Bluegrass.
“Looks like it’s going to be all blue in here today,” said Margaret Pence of Brandenburg.
The UK fan said she’s been coming to the tavern for more than 10 years and has been a Wildcat fan all her life.
Pence watched the game with Linda Coutey of Brandenburg and Julie Thompson of Vine Grove, both UK fans.
“If Louisville fans come in, we try to point them down the other way,” said Thompson, who sat by the main entrance, laughing.
The tavern was divided with a large crowd of UK fans seated in the middle and Cardinal fans along the walls.
The U of L fans said it felt like they were in hostile territory.
“We might need security to get out of here,” said Michelle English, a U of L fan from Brandenburg. “They’re between us and the doors.”
English was enjoying the game with Todd and Timi-Michelle Tolhurst of Ekron. The Tolhursts also were cheering for the Cards.
The Cardinals fell behind by 9 in the first half, but it didn’t shake Timi-Michelle’s confidence.
“We’re going to have two wins tonight,” she said, referring to U of L’s appearance in the Russell Athletic Bowl against the University of Miami later Saturday. “We’re a second-half team.”
Deano Meyers, a UK fan and co-owner of Otter Creek Tavern, said the restaurant tries to make the game enjoyable no matter what side of the fence a fan is on.
Meyers wore a Kentucky sweatshirt and enjoyed the game with his family.
He did say the crowd was down a little this year because of the game’s later start, a little after 4 p.m.
“We’ve had standing-room-only in past years,” he said. “It’s still a nice crowd.”
Fans from both sides cheered as their teams scored and contested calls by referees, but many admitted they expected a close game.
“I like it when people remember it’s just a game,” said Ron Higdon, a U of L fan, of Vine Grove. “I like fans, not fanatics.”
Higdon watched the game with his wife, Kim.
“It’ll be close,” said Tyler Delawder of Radcliff. “It’s always close.”
Delawder, who came with Abby Perez of Elizabethtown, made an entrance wearing a cardinal bird mask. He swore it wasn’t to hide his identity.
“I’m focusing the energy,” he said. “You have to put your flag out and let them know who you’re with.”
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or gclear@