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NJBIZ Brackets: Alumnae sound confident in hours before final tip-off

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Deana Lykins (second from left) with brother Chance Lykins (center) and dad Ben Lykins (right) celebrate Kentucky's Final Four victory at Jack Demsey's pub in Manhattan. (Photo: Deana Lykins)
Deana Lykins (second from left) with brother Chance Lykins (center) and dad Ben Lykins (right) celebrate Kentucky's Final Four victory at Jack Demsey's pub in Manhattan. (Photo: Deana Lykins)

While Insurance Council of New Jersey President Deana Lykins didn't take part in any couch burnings on Saturday night, she joined her dad, brother and about 400 other University of Kentucky fans to celebrate the Wildcats' Final Four victory at Jack Demsey's Pub, in Manhattan.

"My whole family was hoarse by the end of the game, and my brother's fiancee said, 'This is the most fun I've ever had watching a game, even 800 miles from Kentucky,' " Lykins said. "She wore a 'Fear the Brow' T-shirt for Anthony Davis, who has a unibrow. We like to say we always play better when we have 19 eyebrows on the court."

When it comes to NJBIZ Brackets, Lykins said she felt more nervous about Saturday's rivalry matchup with Nick Ojea, of Rutgers University's athletics department, and his Louisville University than tonight's championship round with Giordano Halleran & Ciesla P.C. shareholder Sharlene Hunt's Kansas University.

"I cannot overstate the rivalry and how much people cared about beating Louisville," said Lykins, who feels nothing but hatred toward former Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino, who now leads the Cardinals. "Pitino's a good coach, but (John) Calipari's become the better coach."

While the Wildcats enjoyed a comfortable lead against the Cardinals throughout the majority of the Final Four war, Lykins said the score tonight will be "tight in first half, but Kentucky will pull away in second half."

"One key is that our freshmen don't get nervous," Lykins said. "They're just in the zone the whole time. We have a history with Kansas, but if we don't get into foul trouble, I think we'll be fine."

While Hunt acknowledges that the Jayhawks "didn't exactly soar" over Peter Schofel's Ohio State University Buckeyes, as she had predicted, she was elated when her team came out re-energized in the second half of the Final Four matchup.

"At halftime, I really didn't think they would win, but their defense did a great job in the second," Hunt said. "But to beat Kentucky, Kansas will have to be on top of their game for the entire game, not just the second half."

Watching the game from the sidelines in New Orleans, Schofel couldn't believe how well the Jayhawks' defense kept Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger in check toward the end.

"I was surprised that they just wouldn't let Sullinger shoot, that they kept forcing him to take bad shots," Schofel said. "It turned out that Ohio State's shooting percentage was 35 percent, and Kansas' was 45 percent. Ohio State just lost the intensity in the second."

Hunt thought her team's turnaround from Ohio State's lead in the first half began when NBA potential Thomas Robinson made the first basket coming out of halftime, but she's wary that "Kentucky's defense will be all over him," so she said tonight's game "will have to be more of a team effort."

While Hunt believes her team's defense will hold their own tonight, she said the Jayhawks' greatest challenge will be getting to the basket. For that, Hunt has her hopes set on forward Travis Rutherford, who she said "surprisingly came through against Ohio State, even though we don't hear a lot about him."

Win or lose, Hunt is making a trip out to Topeka, Kan., on Wednesday to visit her Jayhawks-obsessed dad.

"We didn't expect them to go this far. We really fought and scratched through every one of these wins," Hunt said. "If we win the whole thing, I'm going to dance around the house with my father."

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