BOZICH | Snider, Adel question Louisville's fight after humbling loss to Kentucky
Louisville settled for a string of perimeter shots. Kentucky attacked the rim with relentless intensity. The result was an overwhelming UK victory over U of L Friday.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Small ball is the rage in basketball today. Take a three-point shot. Take another. Keep taking them. You don’t have to stop.
Sorry, Steph Curry, but this Kentucky basketball team is not going to play the game that way. It’s a group of mostly freshmen but there is something old-fashioned about the way the Wildcats did their work Friday in Rupp Arena.
Ask the University of Louisville how the Wildcats operated. The Cardinals experienced the old school effects when Kentucky attacked and attacked and attacked and hung a thunderous 90-61 defeat on Louisville.
"This was just a day when we couldn't do anything right," U of L interim coach David Padgett said.
It was the kind of loss that makes you wonder how Louisville will survive during the twice-per-week grind of the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was only the kind of win that makes you believe that Kentucky will be right there with Texas A&M, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida at the top of the Southeastern Conference.
It was Kentucky’s largest winning margin in this series since the Wildcats won by 30 on Dec. 18, 1999.
I don’t remember what the problem was 18 years ago but I do know what the primary problem was for 40 minutes Friday.
Louisville settled for jumpers. Long jumpers. Fadeaway jumpers. Contested jumpers. The complete catalogue of risky shots, especially on the road.
Kentucky settled for nothing less than the best shot available. Many times that was at the rim. Drives. Offensive rebounds. Lobs. The high percentage stuff. The Wildcats outscored U of L in the paint, 42-30. It only seemed like 72-10.That is not a formula for success. Not on the road. Not against teams with talented defenders. Not when you miss 10 of the 11 shots you launched from distance in the first half.
"We didn’t guard anybody," said Louisville forward Deng Adel. "They just kept coming at us ... They’re a terrific transition team. It just led to wide open layups. We just didn’t have enough fight in us to come back.
"Our offense became timid. We took a lot of bad shots and they led to transition dunks."
"We let our offense affect our defense too much," Padgett said.
Quentin Snider, the Cardinals' senior point guard, did not disagree, especially at the start of the second half. Down 41-27, Louisville watched Kentucky make its first three field goal attempts -- Quade Green jumper, P.J. Washington dunk off a pass from Green and then a three-pointer by Green. In only 93 seconds, the Wildcats pushed the lead to 17. It eventually grew to 32.
"Once they hit that first shot, everybody just laid back," Snider said. "I think we missed and they came back and scored again. I felt like everybody just quit. That’s one thing we have to stop doing as a leader."
The Cardinals took 25 three-point shots. They made three. That’s 12 percent. It looks more foolish when you note that Louisville took nearly twice as many threes as it did free throws (25-13).
Kentucky took 49 of their 62 attempts inside the arc – and went to the line for 30 attempts. This was no coincidence. Kentucky coach John Calipari confessed that he did not coach enough aggressiveness into his team during its loss to UCLA last weekend. No more.
"If you want to do this for a living, you'd better fight or you're going to be watching on TV," Calipari said. "We're not freshmen any more. We're 10 games in."
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played off the bench and delivered a career-high 24 points. P.J. Washington contributed 16. Green had 13, making three shots from distance with five assists. The Wildcats only turned the ball over 11 times, four under their average.
Adel had only four points at halftime but finished with 13. Adel, V. J. King and Malik Williams mad the Cardinals only shots from distance.
The Wildcats imposed their will on Padgett’s team. The Cardinals game plan appeared to begin with pressuring Kentucky on the perimeter, especially point guard Quade Green.
If you believe in foreshadowing, the first possession of the game told you how this game was going to unfold. Kentucky worked the ball to Hamidou Diallo in the left corner.
He had an opening for a jump shot but no interest in launching one. Diallo faked right and slashed to his left, beating Deng Adel to the baseline. He was not finished. Diallo went all the way to the rim for a vigorous dunk.
It was only two points. Make no mistake: Kentucky was determined to be the aggressor.
"We left too many driving lanes open," Padgett said.
The Cardinals managed to dance with the Wildcats. With 8:04 left in the first half it was 21-21.
Kentucky scored the game’s next dozen points over the next 5 ½ minutes. Foul trouble swallowed the Cardinals. Two on Ray Spalding. Two on Anas Mahmoud. During one stretch Louisville looked like a team with five guards on the floor.
"Their game plan was clear," Mahmoud said. "They wanted to get to the rim and they got me and Ray in foul trouble."
"They went down low and offensive rebounded," Snider said.
After that the only question was the final margin.
Louisville has four days to regroup. Pittsburgh, clearly the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, visits the KFC Yum! Center Tuesday night.
"We've got to go into the ACC and that’s a different animal," Adel said. "But we will learn from this."
Kentucky does not have to regroup. But the Wildcats have only 27 hours to reset and refocus before playing three games over the next eight days. Georgia (9-2) visits Rupp Arena at 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve.
Next week the Wildcats play their first two road games – Wednesday at dangerous Louisiana State followed by a Saturday trip to Tennessee, which is rated 19th in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
"There are no more easy games," Calipari said.
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