A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky’s Cats give fans the game they wanted, clobber Louisville 90-61 at Rupp

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

Well now. Any questions?

Kentucky gave its fans the game they have been expecting all season against its biggest rival, pulverizing Louisville 90-61 on Friday afternoon in Rupp Arena.

Fans questioning the potential of the Wildcats need not worry any longer after a performance in front of a national television audience that let everyone know they have a lot to look forward to this season.

Freshmen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 24 and PJ Washington collected 16 points and seven rebounds in the most impressive games of their careers for the Wildcats, who earned itheir biggest series win since a 76-46 rout in the 1999-2000 season.

Sacha Killeya-Jones reacts after being called for a technical foul. (Kentucky Today photo by Tammie Brown)

“First of all, that’s as good as we play,” said UK Coach John Calipari. “We just played about as well as we could play and mainly because we finally competed and battled for an entire game. I really like their team. They did not make shots, thank goodness for us. You saw when they started going in the post, I had to go zone because they were going to score.”
“Once we get a complete team effort, we’re going to be hard to beat, as you guys can see,” said Alexander, who had only one turnover in 34 minutes.

Last Saturday’s loss to UCLA stuck in Kentucky’s craw. The Bruins defeated the Cats 83-75 and fickle fans began to question how good this team may be.

“We didn’t think they were going to fight as hard as they would,” Alexander said of the UCLA loss. “We just didn’t take it to them.”

UCLA could be heard celebrating in an adjacent locker room after the win and UK’s players didn’t like it. John Calipari told them the same thing could happen in a string of games coming up starting with Louisville, who came in with a 10-2 record and six-game winning streak, if they didn’t prepare properly and play with purpose. The Cardinals had beaten Kentucky last December.

This time, they never stood a chance.

Kentucky’s lockdown defense limited Louisville to 29 percent shooting and a 25-8 run to end the half created a 41-27 halftime lead. The Cardinals misfired on 12 of their last 13 shots of the half.

“That is a very good Louisville team,” said UK associate head coach Kenny Payne. “That’s the best we have played all year. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come.”

Kentucky’s defense limited a good shooting perimeter team to only three 3-point field goals in a dominating performance from start to finish. Louisville was never closer than 14 points in the second half of the surprising rout.

“It’s refreshing to know what they’re capable of being,” Payne said. “If we’re going to be a great team guys, we’re going to have to be a great team together.”

Kentucky was so good that leading scorer Kevin Knox didn’t have his first field goal until 13 minutes to play and by that time the lead had swelled to 58-35. Knox, who battled foul problems, had eight points and seven rebounds.

The Cats (10-2) found plenty of help as freshmen Hamidou Diallo scored 14 and Quade Green 13.

Kentucky went on a 12-0 run to break a 21-21 deadlock and take a 33-21 advantage after Diallo completed a three-point play. The biggest lead was 32 points, reached the last time at 84-52 when Diallo drilled a 3-pointer.

It was a shocker in a series that has had games that have gone down to the wire and it was the first one in 16 seasons without Rick Pitino on the Louisville sidelines. Interim coach David Padgett, who played for the Cardinals the last time they won in Rupp Arena, was shellshocked with Kentucky’s near-perfect performance.

The Wildcats played well even when shots didn’t fall in the first half, allowing them to build the lead they would never give up. They outrebounded Louisville 44-37 and had 35 bench points, led by Alexander’s big day.

“At the end of the day, what we’re trying to teach this freshmen is this isn’t high school,” Payne said. “Pace of the game, fight to win, the will to win, it’s me against you … whoever fights the longest, the hardest, together, that’s who is going to win.”

The Cardinals started strong, making 5 of 10 shots, but two fouls by 7-footer Anas Mahmoud within 30 seconds put him on the bench and created a void that Kentucky exploited. He fouled out with 8 minutes remaining.

Alexander was named the game’s most valuable player.
“The biggest thing, if you were watching or happened to glance at a game, what you see on his face is a smile,” Calipari said of Alexander. “That kid smiles. I asked him after, I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing. Every Canadian I’ve coached smiles and doesn’t fill the weight of the world on them. Shai, he just plays.”

Calipari had some nice words for Padgett, who had a bad experience in his first rivalry coaching game against UK.
“David (Padgett) has done a good job with this team,” Calipari said of his coaching counterpart. “They hit us on a bad night. Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) was ridiculous. Quade (Green), the way he started the game … I like the lineup of Shai, Quade and Hami (Diallo).”
Calipari said he would immediately begin preparing for Sunday’s game with Georgia in the Southeastern Conference opener in Rupp Arena.

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