Fans started talking ‘smack’ round about Monday, on both sides and only time would tell which team would walk away from Rupp with bragging rights for the next year. Now, the first meeting between the teams when both were ranked nationally in top 5, is finished and the Wildcats remain undefeated in Rupp under Head Coach John Calipari.
Both Louisville and Kentucky players looked forward to today, both hopping to finish 2011 with a “W”, but there can only be one. Prior to today’s meeting, players commented on the task at hand, Doron Lamb stated, “It would have been nice to give them their first loss, but it would be nice to give them their second one too.”, while Chane Behanan explained his position, “This game is going down in history as one of the best games ever.” Coach Cal and Coach Pitino played nice during the introductions, yet all bets were off as the ball was tossed at the start.
For Kentucky, the leadership of Freshman forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took center stage today as he played 39 minutes, scored 24 points, and took down 19 rebounds; amazingly only gaining 3 fouls in the process. Davis’ playing was lower than average for him, yet he stunned with great plays; 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Teague was the sole UK player to reach five fouls, but added 4 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Teague and Lamb combined for 8 turnovers, the same amount as Miller did alone. Lamb and Miller each ended the contest with 4 fouls a piece, yet put up 10 and 7 points, respectively. Mr. Jones showed up with 11 rebounds for the contest, 4 points, and maintained the least amount of fouls with 1. The fear of running has motivated the Wildcats to sink the easy free throws and today, they shot 74.4%, better than Louisville at 66.7%. Free throws were a major factor in the win today and could have lost the game for Kentucky.
Louisville came to Rupp as a strong and athletic team, ready to take on the pressure that comes from playing Kentucky…at Rupp. Coach Pitino knows all too well what the atmosphere is when you come into the Big Blue House, yet his team could not take advantage of second chance points. Russ Smith of Louisville came off the bench to score 30 of Louisville’s 62 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals; with 3 fouls. Kentucky effectively shut down Kyle Kuric with double teams. Peyton Siva posted 8 points, 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal, yet ended the game with 4 fouls.
Both, Louisville and Kentucky players came into this game with jitters, and it took time to find calm, although some players did not find it all. Ironically, Kentucky will meet University of Arkansas-Little Rock in Freedom Hall Tuesday evening, the former home of the Cardinals. Please remember to celebrate the Big Blue Win and the New Year responsibly. The Wildcats in 2012 will be a force.