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
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
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
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,"
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.