(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Amid a flurry of whistles, the Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Louisville Cardinals 69-62 in front of 24,387.
The first half opened with scrappy play on both ends and it didn’t go away for the full 20 minutes. We saw 28 fouls called on both sides, and rather poor shooting from the floor all-around. The Cats held a 15-point lead at one point, but saw the Cards close the half on a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to three. The story of the first half was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who shot 4-9, 2-2 from behind the arc, and had 16 points. Coming off the bench for Louisville was Russ Smith who went 5-9 from the floor with 13 points. He was the spearhead in the late charge back by the Cardinals. Louisville’s zone was making it very difficult for the Cats to get in the paint for easy points, but these ref’s weren’t shy to blow the whistle and the Cats kept themselves in it, going 17-23 at the free throw line.
The second half picked up right where we left off, more disjointed play which resulted in the officials calling an excruciatingly tight game. Whistles were rampant and it really disrupted the flow of the game on both sides for both teams. All-in-all it was an ugly game, but the Cats managed to score the most points. A huge factor in the game was Kentucky’s ability to convert from the free throw line, where they finished with an astonishing 74%.
— MKG, MVP. Good lord. He logged 39 minutes, stayed out of foul trouble, scored 24 points, knocked down a pair of three’s, collected 19 boards and sank eight free throws. Could he have played a better game? He is an absolute monster and no doubt was the player of the game.
— Anthony Davis was no slouch and really bounced back from a rather quiet first half. He finished with 18 points and six blocks. And, as a 60% free throw shooter naturally would, made 12 of 13 free throws. He was clutch down the stretch to seal the deal.
— Clark Kellog just fouled out.
— Many were anticipating the return of Terrence Jones to dominant form. Not so, today. He played 30 minutes and managed only 2 points on 1-of-9 shooting. His biggest contribution, however, was on the glass where he collected 11 rebounds. He seems to be on the way to his normal self, but still struggling with the aggression to the rim.
— Doron Lamb, where were you? Zero three pointers?
— Even on a terrible shooting day the Cats can score enough to win. Kentucky hit 30% from the field and 18% from three-point. If you told me that before the game I say there’s no way the Cats win. But they did. That’s a pretty nice thing to relish in going forward.
— Marquis Teague regressed a bit from his increasing performance over the last several games; only four points, with four turnovers and five assists. However, with his counterpart Peyton Siva playing so poorly it may have balanced out.
–Peyton Siva needs to shoot more. He was 2-13 from the floor for the Cards. Thanks for that effort!
— Twany Beckham logged two big minutes. His moment of glory came late in the first half during the big Cardinal run. He assisted Kyle Witjer with a little jumper, which was a big bucket to stymie the Cardinal run.
— The spread closed with Kentucky as a 9.5-point favorite. Obviously the seven point victory means the Cats failed to cover again, but Russ Smith’s garbage three at the buzzer was the difference. I feel the pain of those who lost money because of that shot.
— The Cats trailed for a whole 43 seconds in this one. After Darius Miller nailed a three with 19:17 in the first half they never looked back.
— Today’s attendance ranks sixth all-time on the Rupp Arena attendance records, just eleven people shy of the North Carolina crowd on December 3
— And finally, there’s this.
h/t to @johnny_pat for the pic.
Enjoy this win, Big Blue Nation and Happy New Year!