I will have much more throughout the day tomorrow, but I just got back to Louisville and have just a couple of notes:
— The word of the night is INTENSITY. I have now been to 9 UK-UL games and I believe that from start to finish, this one may have been the most intense. Louisville’s players REALLY wanted this game and were as into it as imaginable in pre-game and at the start. I actually think that had the effect of getting the UK players focused and you could see what happened initially. From start to finish, it was a down and dirty war on the court and I think everyone there was utterly exhausted at the end.
— What is most interesting to me is how the UK players understood the rivalry after the game. After the Hartford game, I spoke with Cousins and Wall and they both essentially said that Louisville was just another game and they knew almost nothing about them. That is not what they said today. Cousins afterwards used the phrase “strong hate” to describe the game and said “I know what people were saying now.” If they didnt know what UK-UL was before, they certainly knew after that first minute.
— Speaking of the first minute, it was the most unique I may have ever seen in college basketball. Three technicals and the Bledsoe-Delk woofing made it must-see basketball and led to a loud arena. As for the Cousins elbow, I actually agree with Calipari’s point on the subject, saying that it must be viewed in context of the overall game. Yes, Boogie could have been kicked out for the elbow, but if you look at it in the context of Louisville players trash talking and bumping him before the game (which led to a Cousins push apparently) and the chippiness early, the referees could also make the decision to keep him in. Honestly, I would have been fine with either call. It was a blatant shot and uncalled for…but I also understand not throwing him out in minute one.
— And a little positive comment about Rick Pitino (which is often rare). He handled the question on the elbow well. He basically said that he remembers when Timberlake was stepped on and Laettner wasnt kicked out of the game. He doesnt get worked up after that. I understand that position and agree. Now his red scarf he wore…well that I cant defend.
— It has been said a million times, but John Wall makes big plays at big moments. They needed points late and he scored six straight to put UK up five, and give them the run they needed to get the victory. Great players make great plays when it is needed, no matter how they were playing before. Wall is that great player.
— Odd game inside. Cousins had 18 and 18 and Patterson had 17 but Louisville controlled the glass at times in the game. Just a strange mess in that area, in large part because neither team could throw it in the ocean from the outside.
— I do it a lot, but I will do it again. Big props to Ramon Harris for another good game. Calipari said afterwards that he was looking for five guys who could bring it for the stretch run…he found it in Cousins, Wall, Patterson, Bledsoe and Harris. He said he called Ramon over and told him that he better shoot a three when he is open and not be scared. “I told them that I see them make it in practice, so shoot it.” Two possessions later, Ramon knocks down a HUGE open three that gave UK a lead it never relinquished. Kid makes mistakes, but kid plays hard.
The biggest thing I can say about that game is that it is a HUGE relief to have won. When you go into a game and are such heavy favorites, it can become very tricky to pull off the win. I thought all week it would be close and it ended up being exactly the sloppy, dirty game that UL wanted. They executed a game plan that gave them a shot to win and you do have to give them credit for the performance. But in the end, Kentucky won the game they HAD to win and swept the football-basketball series for the first time in years. It wasnt pretty, but it was a win…and against Louisville, you take it.
We will have more all day on all subjects relating to the game. Then tomorrow night, the Podcast. We had Gary Parrish, Jeff Goodman and Kenny Walker and were stood up (again) by Andy Katz. That means you will hear great basketball discussion and Drew Franklin and the Turkey Hunter ranting about Katz. How you gonna beat that?