By Beau Kilpatrick—
No. 6 Kentucky at No. 10 Louisville, December 21, 2016.
One of the biggest rivalries in college basketball went down at the KFC YUM! Center when the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats fell to the No. 10 Louisville Cardinals, 70-73.
If you were to ask anyone from outside the area, you would think that Louisville was a double-digit underdog to the perennial favorite in UK. However, the betting line in Las Vegas had Louisville as two-point favorite just days prior to the matchup, and Kentucky became the two-point favorite at tipoff.
This shift in the betting line foreshadowed this epic showdown between the red and blue that had nine lead changes. The entire game was back-and-forth and it seemed that the winner would be decided by who had the ball in the final seconds.
We all know that Louisville’s frontcourt is strong enough to hold their own against anyone in the country and they proved that against the Wildcats. Jaylen Johnson led the frontcourt with 14 points and gathered six rebounds. Hometown prodigy Ray Spalding grabbed seven rebounds. Mangok Mathiang and Anas Mahmoud blocked two shots each.
The Cardinals out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-36, UL had one more block, but the Cats had three more steals than the Cards. The Kentucky steals can be attributed to their talented backcourt of All-American guards and small forwards. Cardinal fans knew that the Louisville backcourt would have to step up their game if they were to win.
Louisville native Quentin Snider, out of Ballard High School, led all scorers on both teams with 22 points. Snider’s career-best performance set the pace for the Cardinal’s offense that struggles at times. Snider made 10-19 from the field, making two key three-pointers, and led the charge in the final two minutes that would seal the victory.
Deng Adel also posted a career-high night with 18 points. Adel added six rebounds and a steal to help his squad. Finally, the high-octane Donavon Mitchell posted 13 points; a solid outing for the young guard.
Coach Rick Pitino set his squad in attack mode. They came out swinging hard and fast, and never stopped swinging until the final buzzer. This type of attack offense is not what Louisville is known for and maybe that is why it worked. Many of Kentucky’s starters had to sit the bench early due to foul trouble. The Cardinals were able to capitalize on the inexperience of the annual youth that suit up in blue. The experience of the UL juniors and seniors was evident as their patience, shot selection, and skillfully suffocating defense forced the Wildcats into defeat.
Since John Calipari has taken over the reigns in Lexington, the Wildcats have been a near unstoppable force in college basketball. Louisville’s victory marks only the second time that Rick Pitino has beaten the Wildcats since Calipari came to Kentucky. The Cardinals are now 2-9 in the modern series and the last time that the Cards defeated the Cats was in 2012.
Louisville will surely climb up the top-ten rankings with this victory. But that may not mean very much because the upcoming weeks look to be a brutal stretch of schedule. The Cardinals will now face three more ranked opponents in a row after UK—No. 12 Virginia, No. 16 Indiana, and No. 25 Notre Dame.
Louisville’s defense is arguably the best in the country and their offense is beginning to mesh at the most opportune time. The next two weeks will surely test the toughness of this year’s Cardinal squad and with any luck they will shock the nation with greatness. Go CARDS! L1C4.