The Kentucky vs. Louisville basketball game is one of the premier sporting events each and every year. Unsurprisingly, the rivalry game has given us more than a couple of “iconic” moments, with some of the best coming in the past ten years. Now, as the decade comes to a close, let’s revisit some of those memorable moments, shall we?
In no particular order…
“You messed with the wrong guy”
The 2010 season was amazing for a lot of reasons, but the Cats’ 71-62 win over the Cardinals – John Calipari’s first win in the Battle for the Bluegrass – set the precedent for years of “Bluegrass Battles” to come. In this particular game, it truly was a battle.
Right after the opening tip, there was a bit of an altercation between Eric Bledsoe and Reginald Delk, which led to Calipari telling Delk, “He’ll kick your ass after the game… You messed with the wrong guy.” But it didn’t stop there. With the game still tied at 0-0, six fouls and three technicals had already been assessed.
Eventually, No. 3 Kentucky won, thanks in large part to Cousins’ 18 points and 18 rebounds combined with John Wall and Patrick Patterson’s 17 points apiece. Those numbers may be forgotten in time, but it’d be hard to forget Calipari yelling “he’ll kick your ass after the game.”
What a line.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s dunk-and-stare
Willie was a fan-favorite during his time in Lexington, largely thanks to his fiesty personality on and off the court. The Wildcat was not going to let anyone give him a hard time, and he knew exactly how to push his opponent’s buttons. He certainly knew how to get to Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell.
It was early in the game – less than two minutes into the first half, to be exact – when Cauley-Stein’s steal-and-slam silenced the Louisville home crowd. Harrell couldn’t keep up, and Cauley-Stein made sure to stare him down after the bucket.
— KY Clips (@KY_Clips) June 11, 2018
Calipari didn’t vocalize “you messed with the wrong guy” during this game, but you can bet he was thinking it.
Anthony Davis’ Final Four “stage”
In another all-too important Kentucky-Louisville showdown, Anthony Davis helped send the Cards packing. There was plenty of trash talk before (and probably during) the Final Four matchup, but Davis’ 18 points and 14 rebounds reminded the Cardinals – and the nation – why he had just been crowned the National Player of the Year.
The game was close, but the Wildcats pulled ahead to a 69-61 victory in New Orleans to advance to the National Championship game, where they eventually claimed the title. As the matchup against Louisville ended, Davis removed his mouthpiece and began to screa: “This is my stage! My stage.”
It certainly was his stage that night.
Aaron Harrison’s first spark
The 2013-14 tournament performance has to be considered one of Kentucky’s most-special runs in program history, especially in the past decade. The Cats had already defeated the Cardinals in the regular season, but they’d have to do it again to advance to the Elite Eight.
The game became an instant classic – it was certainly one of the most exciting rivalry matchups between these two programs during the Coach Cal era. The No. 8 Kentucky team was flying high after its win over No. 1 Wichita State in the second round, while Rick Pitino and the No. 4 Cardinals were trying to avenge that regular season loss.
Kentucky trailed by 13 points in the first half before going on its big run, leading to UK’s biggest comeback of the season. Willie Cauley-Stein played just four minutes before going down with an emotional ankle injury, forcing Dakari Johnson into action after minimal playing time in previous games.
The Cats were strong across the board, but it was Aaron Harrison’s 3-point dagger at the end of the game that finally sealed the deal. Of course, he’d go on to hit that same shot for Kentucky two more times that year, but this was the shot that sent Louisville home and handed Rick Pitino’s first-ever loss in the Sweet 16.
SGA’s coming-out party
The rivalry underwent some major changes in 2017, as the year’s annual regular-season game marked the programs’ first rivalry showdown without Rick Pitino in 16 seasons following his October firing. But sometimes, even in the face of change, things tend to remain the same. Kentucky dominated Louisville that night inside Rupp Arena, eventually winning 90-61. Even with a new coach – the beginning of a new era for the University of Louisville – the Wildcats proved victorious.
The Cats Wildcats used a 20-6 run to close the first half with a 41-27 lead, and they never looked back. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the show that night, coming off the bench for a career-high 24 points, including 17 after halftime, and just one turnover.
The 29-point win was the rivalry’s most-lopsided outcome in nearly 20 years, and SGA – alongside his new haircut and rightfully-earned MVP belt – officially cemented his place in hearts all across the Big Blue Nation.
Josh Harrellson’s own breakout game, which included 23 points and 14 rebounds, also comes to mind as one of the decade’s top moments. Darius Miller’s perfectly-timed three-point bucket that gave the Wildcats control for good in 2012 (to go along with 10 other points for the Kentucky native) also stands out. Actually, any big night from a Kentucky native qualifies for this list, at least in my book (looking at you, Dominique Hawkins).
Who could forget Rick Pitino’s infamous (and final) exit from Rupp Arena? Or DeMarcus Cousins elbowing Louisville’s Jared Swopshire? Then there was that time Tyler Ulis became the first two-time recipient of the game’s MVP award, scoring 35 points and 10 assists in his two rivalry games. He had the bleeding eye to prove it.
This Saturday’s matchup will mark the final rivalry game of the decade, and one can only hope to round out an incredible ten-year period with a few more memorable moments against the Cardinals.
What stands out to you as the rivalry moment of the decade?