UK had emerged from a tie, eluded the train and got to its school's first Final Four since 1998 when the Wildcats were finishing off a run of three consecutive Final Fours, winning two championships and losing a third in overtime.
Kentucky beat North Carolina, 76-69, because it made every big shot and absolutely killed the Tar Heels from the arc, making 12 of 22 to just 3 of 16 for Carolina. That's 36-9 on the scoreboard and just too much to overcome.
A year after seeing five players go in the first round of the NBA draft following an Elite 8 loss to West Virginia, UK is back with a new group of NBA-ready freshmen and those holdovers - Liggins, big man Josh Harrellson and Darius Miller, the only player in the rotation from Kentucky.
More than any of his teammates, Miller, from Maysville, understands the importance of UK baskets to the commonwealth where the only thing as meaningful as Kentucky national championships is being the owner/breeder of the Kentucky Derby winner.
"I grew up in Kentucky,'' Miller said. "I know what it means to the state, how big it is for the state. I'm just glad to be a part of something like this and experience it . . . We don't really have a pro team so it really is a big deal.''
Miller was the only starter from last year's team not to average double figures and the only one not to enter the draft. Liggins was a bit player, averaging 3.8 points. Harrellson scored 28 points in 88 minutes last season.
Liggins and Harrellson were on the all-region team. Knight, who made the game-winner against Ohio State on Friday and the game changer last night, was the Most Outstanding Player.
And John Calipari had taken his third different team to the Final Four - Massachusetts (1996) and Memphis (2008). Only Rick Pitino had done that - Providence, Louisville and, yes, Kentucky.
Coach Cal did it at UMass with veterans, including Marcus Camby. He did it at Memphis with veterans and a great freshman (Derrick Rose). He nearly did it at UK last year with almost all freshmen. Now, he has done it with three freshmen in the rotation - Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. His best freshman, center Enes Kanter from Turkey, was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits and never played.
"The resiliency this team showed was unbelievable,'' Calipari said. "It got late, they tied it up, and we didn't back away. There were a couple of times I thought about calling timeouts and I did not want my guys to think that I didn't believe in them. I wanted them to play through it.''
So they did.
UK got 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals from Knight. Harrellson, who fought Ohio State's fabulous freshman Jared Sullinger to a virtual standstill in the Sweet 16, had 12 points and eight rebounds while battling with Tyler Zeller in the post. All five UK starters scored in double figures.
"We lost five first-round draft picks and everyone wants to say you can't win with young players,'' Calipari said. "I say if it is experience or talent and I have a choice, I'm taking talent and we will figure out how to make them play together.''
Zeller (21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) and Harrison Barnes (18 points, including eight in 61 seconds as Carolina was surging) nearly willed UNC back from a 47-36 deficit with 16 minutes left and a 65-57 deficit with 5 1/2 minutes left. They got it even at 67-67. Then Knight hit his shot. And Liggins hit his.
"The shot Brandon hit, I still picture it in my mind,'' Zeller said.
So does Knight.
"We come early to practice to shoot,'' Knight said. "We stay after to shoot. But it wasn't only me that made big shots.''
No, he was not.
Those last two treys will be the indelible moments from a game that had dozens of unforgettable moments - big shots, amazing blocks, athletic steals, great play.
"If you didn't really care who won the game, it had to be a game you enjoyed watching if you love basketball,'' UNC coach Roy Williams said. "And I couldn't be more proud of my team than I am. And John's got a wonderful bunch out there cutting down the nets right now and I would like it to be my team, but it's not.''
It did not help Carolina that Zeller's fellow big man John Henson got his third foul with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half and his fourth not quite 4 minutes into the second half. Still, the Tar Heels made their charge.
And Kentucky held it off.
"For me in this profession, you know I said this before, there are guys born on third base and then there are guys born outside of the arena that have to try to get in the arena to get up to bat to get to first base to go to third base,'' Calipari said.
First to third would be Harrellson, Miller and Liggins.
With Kentucky up 75-69 and 9.3 seconds left, Liggins went over to the bench and hugged his coach. Calipari kissed him on the forehead.
"When I saw the board, the seedings, yeah, I am a little bit surprised we're here,'' Calipari said. "But not because of how my team was playing. I just thought the path to get here would be so ridiculous that we would have to play out of our minds or people would have to get knocked off.''
They did play out of their minds and knocked them all off.
The Kentucky locker room was off-limits a little bit longer than is typical. Jay-Z was there to pay homage to Cal. Of course he was.
The teams now have identical 29-8 records. Carolina will have to rest on what it's done. Kentucky gets to try for more.
As the nets began to come down, the UK band played "My Old Kentucky Home.'' During the 90-second rendition, Coach Cal walked slowly toward the locker room. Just as the song ended, Cal disappeared.