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By Keith Taylor
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ It didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take long for DeMarcus Cousins got his first taste of the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry. It took just 45 seconds for Cousins to realize the Wildcats were in for a showdown in the yearly showdown for bragging rights between the two rivals.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty intense,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cousins said following KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 71-62 triumph over the Cardinals in front of the largest crowd in Rupp Arena history. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The game was fun, but it was intense. Everybody played hard and we left it on the floor. It was fun.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Although Cousins was slapped for a technical foul after battling LouisvilleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Jared Swopshire for a lose ball at the 19:15 mark of first half, the Cardinals tried to rattle Cousins during pre-game warm-ups. It was the kind of greeting the Wildcats were expecting from the Cardinals.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think that Louisville did everything they could to get his goat,Ã¢â‚¬Â Kentucky coach John Calipari said afterward. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We told him they were going to do that and they did it was we walked in and off the court (before the game) and the kid never budged.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cousins said Jerry Smith tried to rattle him prior to tipoff, but Calipari said Cousins wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t alarmed and was focused on the task at hand.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœitÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not bothering me,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am going to play.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cousins said the emotional beginning provided a spark instead of the opposite reaction the Cardinals were trying to create.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I enjoyed that game from start to finish,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was an intense game – everybody was going hard and leaving it on the floor.Ã¢â‚¬Â
As for the technical foul, Cousins said both players Ã¢â‚¬Å“were going after a lose ballÃ¢â‚¬Â and got caught up in the heat of the moment. A television replay showed Cousins using his forearm in an exchange of wills between the two players.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know anything about a forearm,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was just going for the ball.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Once Cousins got into the flow of the game, he dominated in the post. The Kentucky center had a double-double with 18 points and 18 rebounds. Cousins carried the Cats until freshman sidekick John Wall took over down the stretch that kept the Wildcats perfect on the season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He played and he is pretty good,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He missed some free throws that he has been making, but if we can get him consistently playing and get him focused in the court (we will be fine.). He did a pretty good job (of being focused.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The demeanor that Cousins displayed following the heat-of-the-moment beginning pleased Calipari.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is growing up and really maturing,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is playing with a lot more confidence. He still does the reverse dunk and reverts to AAU every once in a while, but he is getting better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cousins wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be surprised the next time opponents try to get him rattled. As indicated by his performance against the Cardinals, Cousins showed he is maturing and can handle the adversity.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I expect it,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We just have to stick together and play hard. We just have to keep fighting and never give up.Ã¢â‚¬Â