A record crowd of 22,810 at the KFC Yum! Center watched the 3rd ranked University of Louisville Cardinals (12-1) beat the number 23 University of Kentucky Wildcats (8-4) 80-77. Even though the Cat faithful won’t want to hear it, this game wasn’t really that close. UK clawed back into it after trailing by as much as 17 to make it respectable, but they were never really threatened to take it over and win.
The Cardinal’s trademark pressure had to let up down the stretch because of foul trouble from Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng. Siva fouled out in the late going. Complicating things was the fact that Smith and Dieng couldn’t be as aggressive as they normally play. However the Cards had enough in the closing moments to keep Kentucky from regaining the momentum.
On offense, Louisville destroyed Kentucky in the paint, scoring 44 of their points there as the Cats had to endure several embarrassing Chane Behanan dunks. UK never got out on the fast break either, only putting in 2 as opposed to UofL’s 20 transition points.
The Cards put the clamps on UK’s Nerlens Noel, holding him to 8 points, including only 2 in the second half. The knock on Noel moving to the next level has been his lack of physicality. He played soft against Louisville, too, which won’t help that perception. Archie Goodwin on the other hand played big with 22 points, backed up by Ryan Harrow’s 17.
For the home team, Russ Smith played like he always does finishing with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Chane Behanan posterized Kentucky defenders all evening, wrapping up the game with 20 points and 7 rebounds. Before fouling out, Peyton Siva poured in 19 points and kept all the Cardinal heads in the game as their leader.
One of the first thundering ovations heard during the game occurred when Zach Price went out in favor of Gorgui Dieng. Still feeling the effects of his broken wrist, Dieng’s presence changed Wildcat offensive plays on intimidation alone. He also didn’t have a problem challenging shots, blocking two of them while still wearing his cast.
What kept Kentucky in the game was the 3 point shooting of Goodwin and Kyle Wiltjer, who combined for 7 of the 10 triples the Cats hit and gave Ashley Judd something to cheer about. And yet for coach John Calipari and company, it’s back to the drawing board. In his postgame radio show, Calipari said he didn’t need a complicated game plan for Louisville because they just play ragged. Guessing he’s not a fan of the press.
Problem is, that “ragged” Cardinal play took down his squad at its best. Perhaps it’s time to climb down off that Lexington high horse and take your butt whipping, at the hands of “little brother,” like a man.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton