April 3, 2012 / 8:25 PM / 6 years ago

Violence, fires mar Kentucky celebration of NCAA win

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Reuters) - Raucous fans of the University of Kentucky basketball team took to the streets of Lexington to celebrate the school’s eighth national basketball championship on Monday night, prompting dozens of arrests and sending dozens of people to hospitals with minor injuries.

Police on Tuesday said two shootings occurred but most of the arrests were made on minor charges such as alcohol intoxication, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.

The Wildcats, college basketball’s all-time winningest program, defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 67-59 in New Orleans on Monday, setting off a night of partying more than 1,000 miles away.

Post-game violence also marred Kentucky’s semifinal win over in-state rival Louisville on Saturday.

Monday’s victory gave the University of Kentucky its first NCAA basketball title since 1998.

Lexington Division of Fire and Emergency Services Battalion Chief Ed Davis said firefighters responded to more than 40 calls involving small fires and one larger blaze in a garage.

Davis said emergency medical crews responded to about 25 calls, with most of the injuries stemming from alcohol intoxication or fighting.

Davis also said that he witnessed a man being shot. The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, he said.

Police officials said dozens of people were arrested but could not provide an exact figure.

Thousands of University of Kentucky fans are expected to welcome the team back to Lexington on Tuesday afternoon at an official celebration. More than 23,000 free tickets to the event were scooped up within minutes early on Tuesday morning.

Officials and fans said the scene on Monday night appeared to be much tamer than the one that followed Saturday night’s victory over archrival Louisville in the national semifinal game.

More than two dozen people were arrested after at least one car was overturned and burned, and couches were set ablaze near campus to celebrate the ousting of the Cardinals from the NCAA tournament.

Pictures and video of Saturday’s melees generated national and international headlines on Sunday, embarrassing school and local officials, who vowed to stop a repeat performance on Monday night.

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto sent out an e-mail letter to students hours before Monday’s game, pleading with them to have fun and celebrate without endangering others.

Editing by Xavier Briand

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