LEXINGTON – As the annual UK/UofL game began, with the crowd cheering like crazy and booing the Cards I looked over at Rick Pitino as he greeted opposing coaches and players. I couldn’t help but think:
Does he ever wonder, ‘How could I leave all this? How?’
Just throwing it out there. I know he’s got his new palace on the river, new fans, good players at UofL. But it’s just not the same, is it?
In the beginning of today’s game, Kentucky looked confident. The crowd was ready. It felt like the Carolina game.
Then the similarities ended. The game started and it was immediately taken over by the officials. I’ve never seen a game with so many fouls. It made it difficult to watch.
And neither team played very well. Great defense had something to do with it. So did the somewhat unending whistle of the referees. But for the most part neither team looked great. Louisville missed shots it sometimes makes. Kentucky was completely befuddled by the Cards press.
There were turnovers. There were fouls. And, we need to say it, there were three great performances: Kidd-Gilchrist, who threw out a herculean 24 points and 19 rebounds, Anthony Davis, who showed us another great performance with 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots, and the Cards super sophomore Russ Smith, who made a ton of shots in a 30-point performance.
It wasn’t enough though, as UK pulled out a 69-62 victory in front of a packed Rupp Arena where more than 50 fouls were called and 2 stars – UK’s Doron Lamb and the Cards’ Chane Behanon – each had 3 fouls before the end of the first half.
The game lasted about 2 hours and 25 minutes.
But both teams showed their mettle. When Kentucky looked as if they were going to make it a rout in the first half, Louisville came back, making shots and forcing turnovers. They made another run in the second, when it looked like UofL had found their rhythm. Kidd-Gilchrist was a monster all night, and when it mattered most, Anthony Davis made all of his free throws (12-13 on the day) and helped score the ball.
Let’s also give a special shout out to Terrence Jones. When others were scoring, he crashed the boards – hard – pulling down 11 rebounds on his road back to production. Great job. UK killed Louisville on the boards by more than 20.
Rick Pitino said afterward that his team was overmatched, especially when center Giorgi Deng found foul trouble. He was right – at each position, UK was more athletic. We knew that. But the Cards still played with fire, making what should have been a rout a much closer game. A 17-5 run to close the first half made sure of that.
Kyle Wiltjer came in to score 4 needed points. Marquis Teague is still a work in progress, and Doron Lamb was out of sorts. Didn’t matter. The Cats did what they needed to do.
It was a fistfight, and they won, especially by rebounding the ball.
And no matter how, a win over Louisville always feels good.
– Jay-Z was here. He’s cool.
Happy New Year all!
And Go Big Blue!
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