Coming in to the annual Battle of the Bluegrass rivalry game between the 18th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats and the 4th-ranked Louisville Cardinals most experts saw this as a game that either Louisville’s backcourt advantage or Kentucky’s frontcourt advantage would prove to be the difference. Louisville’s frontcourt proved to be no match for the much bigger frontcourt of Kentucky. The Harrison twins provided much needed backcourt help for the Wildcats in their 73 – 66 victory on Saturday in front of 24,396 fans in Rupp Arena.
Louisville started the game on an 8 – 0 run as Chris Jones drained two threes and Russ Smith made a driving layup. Kentucky was not rattled as they went on a 10 – 2 run themselves led by their star Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison.
Randle showed why he is the star he is in the first half by scoring all 17 of his points on 7 of 8 shooting. The new defensive rules seemed to benefit him the most as he was able to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket at will and finish. He played only 21 minutes as leg cramps forced him to the bench for most of the second half.
Andrew Harrison came in to the game catching Calipari’s ire for his lackluster play. He showed up against the Cardinals especially in the second half scoring 11 of his 18 points. He was critical to the win with his play down the stretch.
James Young did not have a good shooting game going 5 of 17, but he did finish with 10 rebounds and 4 assists. He finished tied with Andrew Harrison with 18 points.
Louisville need to get some solid play from both forward positions and the center position to win this game. They received little help from any of these positions. Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, and Mangok Mathiang combined for only 15 points and 10 rebounds. Both Harrell and Blackshear were limited with early foul trouble. Blackshear played only 12 minutes before fouling out.
The bench did not give the lift that the Cardinals needed. Junior forward Chane Behanan grabbed 7 rebounds, but did not score a point and committed 4 of Louisville’s 13 turnovers.
Luke Hancock continued to struggle with his shot. Hancock scored 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting. He made only 2 of his 8 three point attempts. Many of his shots were open looks.
Russ Smith led the Cardinals with 19 points on 7 of 20 shooting. At times he was able to get into the lane whenever he wanted and at others he was affected by the size inside of the Wildcats. He led the Cardinals with 4 assists and had the highlight of the game when he threw down a thunderous dunk on Julius Randle in the first half. However, Smith did commit 4 turnovers and missed 5 of his 10 free throw attempts.
The loss to Kentucky brings Louisville’s record to 11 – 2. They travel to Central Florida for their next game on New Year’s Eve. Game time will be 5:00.