One minute it felt like Kentucky would run Louisville out of the arena. Then, before you knew it, it was a one-point game and Big Blue Nation was sweating bullets, dreading the absolute worst. That was the story throughout the day in Lexington, and luckily, the Cats held on to get the 75-73 win.
In a surprising plot twist, Kentucky was led by its five upperclassmen — yes, ALL FIVE upperclassmen — as the Cats were carried by Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins. It may be the first time a Calipari-coached team relied on its veterans to win a big game, with very little help from its freshman NBA prospects.
The win did not come easy, however, and Louisville had a look to win it in the end. After an inexcusable shot clock violation (DID WISCONSIN NOT TEACH US ANYTHING???) on Kentucky’s final possession, Louisville had the ball down two with 12 seconds to go. Damion Lee tried a step-back three over Alex Poythress that missed its mark as a collective sigh of relief came across Big Blue Nation.
Now, we celebrate.
But first, some talking points…
Tyler Ulis did it to Louisville again.
I don’t know what’s going on between Tyler Ulis and the Louisville Cardinals but there must be some bad blood there. He was outstanding in this game for a second consecutive season, tying his career-high with 21 points and hitting four three-pointers, one from somewhere outside Bardstown:
The Point God was named MVP of the game by the Bluegrass Sports Commission and he deserved it.
What a game from No. 3.
Big Shot Dom.
How ’bout the kid from Richmond? Have a day, Dominique.
With Isaiah Briscoe sidelined with an injury (more on that in a moment) Dominique Hawkins saw additional minutes; and not only did he make the most them, he earned even more.
Hawkins played 26 unexpected minutes in today’s win, scoring a career-high 13 points and hitting a career-high three treys. One of those treys was arguably the biggest shot of the game: a dagger to stretch Kentucky’s lead to five with the shot clock winding down and three minutes to go in the ball game. He caught it on the wing and let it fly, without thinking twice, to put Kentucky up five and send a roar throughout Rupp Arena.
Moments later, Hawkins hit the two biggest free throws of the game to again extend Kentucky’s lead to five. The unlikely hero accounted for the final five points for Kentucky in the win.
Afterward, John Calipari said, “He never changed his emotion the whole time. He defended, he’ll fight like crazy, he’s got a great temperament, a great demeanor. One of the great kids of all time. I mean literally one of the great kids.”
Hawkins said, “Every shot I threw up I thought it was going in.”
Alex Poythress was a savage.
Alex Poythress was a man amongst boys through much of the game. What he did to Louisville was borderline abusive. That poor kid who tried to dunk him… Come on, Alex! Don’t do him like that! He has a family!
That was the best version of Alex Poythress that I believe we’ve seen and he was loving every minute of it. Which makes it frustrating that he doesn’t do it all the time, because we know it’s in there. Glad he picked today to bring it out.
14 big points and six boards for him, while working the middle of that zone.
Jamal Murray was a headache. A headache that made some big time three-pointers.
If Jamal Murray’s goal was to dribble all of the air out of the basketball, he accomplished that goal and more. Murray was SO FRUSTRATING to watch with the basketball as he tried to do way too much one-on-one and committed far too many turnovers. Hell, Archie Goodwin thought Murray was playing out of control.
And right when we thought we had seen enough of him for the day, he knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to climb his way right back into our hearts.
Those three-pointers, though extremely clutch, did not make up for the seven turnovers, however. If not for the couple of big shots, his performance was complete garbage. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field and an endless amount of bad decisions.
He has to calm down.
Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress are the frontcourt. Sorry, Skal.
Once again, Skal Labissiere was a non-factor. He missed a couple of bunnies and got stripped on the offensive end, while not offering anything defensively or on the glass. It was the first game of the season he did not start and that decision proved to be the correct one.
Marcus Lee, on the other hand, was the energy guy Kentucky needed him to be. He had eight points and seven rebounds and did just about everything Calipari could’ve asked from him.
It’s time to move on with Lee and Poythress inside and Skal doing what he can off the pine. He just doesn’t have it at this point in his career.
Isaiah Briscoe was a last-minute DNP.
Kentucky fans received quite a scare when Isaiah Briscoe rolled his ankle in pregame warmups, forcing him to sit out for the day. The injury did not appear to be severe, but it was enough to keep him on the bench and out of the rotation.
At the time, Big Blue Nation, myself included, had a small panic attack. Kentucky needed Briscoe to be big in this game, so we thought, and losing him could’ve been disastrous.
Yet Kentucky still won.
Did Calipari’s technical win the game?
It sparked the 14-6 run to close the half, a run that changed the course of the game.
Best technical ever?
Damion Lee is a hell of a ball player.
Louisville’s star player went for 27 points and had a look at the game-winner in the final seconds. Luckily it did not fall, but hats off to Lee for a great game. Let’s be glad he’s only at Louisville for one season and we don’t have to see him again. He’s tough.
Shout-out to the fans in Rupp Arena.
I can’t remember an environment like that in a long, long time. It was lit–as the kids say–and a major factor in the outcome of today’s game.
Rupp often gets criticized for being too friendly of an environment, but that certainly wasn’t the case in this one.
Way to go, BBN.