Red, White and yes, Kentucky Blue filled the stands at the KFC Yum center last night. The Kentucky Wildcats brought their 10-1 record ninety miles west on I-64 to face the 10-1 Louisville Cardinals. Louisville came in off of an easy 87-56 win over in-state Eastern Kentucky and Kentucky coming in over a thrilling 103-100 win over then number 5 ranked North Carolina out in Vegas. The battle for the bluegrass basketball crown was once again up for grabs with more than twenty NBA scouts there to watch the talents of both teams.
The Cats, averaging only 13.8 seconds per possession, came in looking to run early and often. Kentucky scored three times on transition buckets before the Yum Center knew what hit them. Fox and Briscoe moved the ball up the floor in lightning pace. Louisville’s lock down defense rebounded quickly from the early run of the Cats to slow the pace down to their favor. Kentucky couldn’t drive the ball, didn’t rebound and the Cards made them pay on the other end with the three. Calipari went deep into the bench early with a lineup combination that we may not have seen before, or may never see again. The Cards went on and 8-0 run in just over a minute, forcing Cal to call the timeout and get his starters back in. The first half came to an end with Louisville playing like the number one team in the country and trailing the Cats by one, 39-40.
Pitino and the Cards came out of the half knowing Kentucky would feed their big men to start. Bam struggled to get a clean look at the basket and UK had an early shot clock violation, which clearly swung the momentum to the. Quentin Snider then used that momentum to his advantage to take over the game. Monk, coming off his 47-point performance in Vegas, looked to get in a rhythm but it just wasn’t there. A monster dunk by Bam tied the game at 53 with 10:31 to play. For the next ten minutes, Louisville played lights out and kept Kentucky at bay. Malik Monk hit his first 3-point basket of the night with 0:12 seconds left to play cutting the Cards lead to one. On the in bounds play, Monk fouled Mitchell putting him at the line. Mitchell hit both free throws and put the Cards up 3 with only 8 seconds to play. Coming out of a Louisville timeout, UK got the ball to their season’s leading scorer Monk, with a great look at a three to potentially tie the game. The three fell just short ending the game with a 70-73 Louisville victory.
Kentucky ended the game shooting 39.7 percent and 22.7 percent from beyond the arc while Louisville shot 43.3 percent and 42.9 from downtown. Louisville native, Quentin Snider led all scorers with 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in 37 minutes played. De’Aaron Fox led the Cats with 21 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists in 35 minutes played. Malik Monk was clearly off of his game tonight shooting only 1-9 from three points, ending the game with 16 points, 3 rebounds and only 1 assist.
The atmosphere was everything it should have been with a number six team coming in to face a number ten team. Kentucky just couldn’t pull it out in the old Chicken Bucket (a.k.a. KFC Yum Center). Louisville was the better team and deserved the win. Congrats to Rick Pitino and his team…but we still won the Football Game!