BOZICH | Kentucky Grows Up, Beats Louisville, 73-66 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Kentucky Grows Up, Beats Louisville, 73-66

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Kentucky overcame the absence of Julius Randle in the second half and beat Louisville, 73-66, in Rupp Arena Saturday. Kentucky overcame the absence of Julius Randle in the second half and beat Louisville, 73-66, in Rupp Arena Saturday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Back and forth they went, for nearly two hours. Louisville spurting to an early eight-point lead, Kentucky responding with poise and then moving ahead by nine.

That's the way it remained in the second half, too – three ties, two lead changes, many moments when it appeared that neither team was going to take control.

Then with the game tied at 53 and Julius Randle forced to the locker room by cramps, Kentucky hit Louisville with a thunderbolt of energy and offensive force, outscoring the Cardinals 13-3 over the next 3 ½ minutes.

That was the cushion the Wildcats needed to push to a 73-66 victory, achieved without getting anything from their leading scorer (Randle) in the second half.

Who carried John Calipari's team in Randle's absence?

Several guys -- Andrew Harrison had 18, James Young 18 and Aaron Harrison 10. The Wildcats outrebounded Louisville by eight, getting 10 boards each from Young and Willie Cauley-Stein.

By the end of the game, U of L coach Rick Pitino appeared to be thoroughly perturbed – and he should have been.

The Cards got nothing from their frontcourt. Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan combined for only 11 points. Pitino also put Luke Hancock and Russ Smith on the bench late in the second half while the Wildcats were taking control. The Cards missed 20 of 26 three-point shots.

WHERE'S JULIUS? – Julius Randle was the best player on the floor for the first 20 minutes, punishing Louisville with 17 points, making seven of eight shots. Louisville could not guard him.

The final 20 minutes? Randle was in pain more than any player on the court. He took himself out of the game three times because of cramps. The first time Randle retreated toward the locker room. The next two times. He merely sat on the bench drinking fluids as the UK training staff worked on him. Randle went to the locker room with about eight minutes to play and did not return.

DUNK OF THE DAY? THE WEEK? THE YEAR? – The most spectacular play of the game never made the replay board at Rupp Arena. That's because Louisville guard Russ Smith made it.

Splitting a pair of defenders near the free-throw line, Smith drove directly down the center of the lane. That is where he encountered Randle.

Here's the problem. Randle has 85 pounds and nine inches on Smith. Not that Smith cared.

Lifting off just inside the free-throw line, Smith launched his body toward the rim and Randle. Smith timed his approach perfectly and planted the ball over Randle's left-hand into the basket.

Rupp Arena was never quieter the rest of the day

SHARE THE BALL – Things got a bit test early in the game – between teammates. Smith stripped Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison at midcourt and weaved his way to the basket for a layup attempt.

The problem was that Harrison contested the shot and U of L forward Montrezl Harrell was open as the trailer.

Smith forced the shot. He missed the shot. And then Harrell fouled Harrison after the rebound. Harrell didn't like Smith's decision – and told him about it.

IN AND OUT – Rick Pitino does not like to linger on his trips back to Rupp Arena. As usual, the Cardinals stayed in Louisville Friday night and journey to Lexington by bus on Saturday, arriving at 2:36 p.m., about 1 ½ hours before tip. They exited as soon as their post-game responsibilities were finished.

RIVALRY MEMORIES – One of the dozen or so NBA scouts at the game was George Felton, who works for the Spurs. Felton assisted Tubby Smith at Kentucky and said that he always advocated playing the Louisville game the first game of the year.

"Play it, get it over with and move on to the rest of your season," Felton said.

That's not how it unfolded. One season the game was played Dec. 26, another year it was Dec. 18.

"Those years it never felt like Christmas around here," Felton said.

UP NEXT – Louisville will play two more games before Kentucky plays again – although both U of L games will be on the road. The Cardinals head to Florida – again – for a New Years Eve match with Central Florida in Orlando. Next weekend the Cards visit Rutgers before finally returning home Jan. 9 to play Memphis. Kentucky has practice, practice, practice in its future. The Wildcats open Southeastern Conference play when Mississippi State visits Jan. 8.

Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.


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