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By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman Marcus Lee says there is no doubt which game he’s anticipating the most this season.
“I am definitely excited for that Louisville game. I am way too excited to go back and get that game back for the team after last year (when UK lost to Louisville),” Lee said. “It has been a flip of coin between us and them with the top ranking, so it will be a great challenge and fun for all of us.
“It’s easy to circle that game on the schedule for anybody on our team. That’s a game we want.”
Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.
With Louisville and Kentucky renewing their rivalry Saturday in Louisville, oddsmakers agree that this is the year Rick Pitino’s Cardinals finally beat John Calipari. Since arriving at UK, Calipari is 4-0 against Louisville, including a win in the Final Four last year when the Cats won the national championship. However, this year No. 4 Louisville is a solid favorite over unranked Kentucky, which has already lost to Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame. Three previous times in this series when Louisville was ranked this highly and UK was unranked, the Cardinals won each time.
Various media members who cover Kentucky basketball regularly shared their thoughts and insights on the game.
Question: Who will be the best player on the court for the UK-Louisville game?
Keith Taylor, Winchester Sun: “The best player on the court will be Louisville guard Russ Smith. Ten games into the season, Smith was averaging 20.2 points per game. Containing Smith will be a key for Kentucky to have a chance to beat the Cardinals at the KFC Yum!Center.”
Mary Jo Perino, WLEX-TV: “Peyton Siva will be the best player on the court, but I believe Nerlens Noel has the best potential.”
Tom Leach, Leach Report and UK Radio Network: “Often, in this game, the star player is someone we would not have forseen — think Josh Harrellson two years ago. If Kentucky wins, I’m thinking it will be Alex Poythress. If Louisville does indeed lack its primary shot blocker, Poythress could be hard to handle in the lane, if he brings his ‘A’ game.”
Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “I don’t think there’s ever been a harder year to answer this question. Logic says Siva, but he’s always prone to one of those two-assist, six-turnover games he has occasionally. Last time we saw Alex Poythress against a big-name opponent, he was probably the best player on the court. Will that Alex come back? So I’ll go with Russ Smith.”
Ryan Lemond, Kentucky Sports Radio: “ I think the best player on the floor will be Nerlens Noel, especially if Giorgi Dieng doesn’t play for U of L. I think Noel just keeps getting better and better each time out. He’s already played pretty well against some other big guys this year — Plumley at Duke, Cooley at Notre Dame and Maryland’s big guy. Just as the U of L game was Josh Harrellson’s coming out party two years ago at the YUM Center, it’s going to be Noel’s turn this year to show the world why he’s considered one of the top two picks in the NBA draft this year.”
Jennifer Palumbo, WKDY-TV: “Archie Goodwin.”
Larry Glover, Larry Glover Live: “I’m not sure if he’ll be the best player on the floor but I think Ryan Harrow will be the most important player on the floor. Kentucky simply cannot turn the ball over. If UK takes care of the basketball, it will create scoring opportunities for the Cats and that will limit easy opportunities for the Cardinals, who struggle to put the ball in the basket.”
Ashley Scoby, vaughtsviews.com: “Nerlens Noel might be the most natural talent on the court, but Russ Smith has also been playing great lately and is sure to provide some matchup issues for Kentucky.”
Coming next: Which team has the most pressure on it Saturday?
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 69, Louisville 62
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 13-1 and Louisville is 12-2.
- Kentucky leads the series 29-14 and has won three in a row.
- UK is 170-73 all-time against teams currently comprising the Big East Conference, including 2-0 this season.
- Coach John Calipari is 9-5 in games against Louisville, including 3-0 as head coach of the Wildcats.
- UK is 13-4 all-time when playing on New Yearâ€™s Eve.
- Kentucky returns to action Tuesday against Arkansas-Little Rock. The game will be played in Freedom Hall in Louisville at 7 p.m.
- Kentucky started with the lineup of Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Darius Miller and Anthony Davis for the fifth time this season, including the fourth-straight game. UK is 5-0 when starting this lineup.
- Louisville got the gameâ€™s first basket. UK took the lead on a 3-pointer by Miller with 19:10 on the clock and the Wildcats never trailed again.
- Kentucky entered the 1-and-1 with 14:28 remaining in the first half as Lamb sank both ends for a 12-8 UK lead. UK reached the double bonus with 10:09 left.
- Louisville entered the bonus with 11:32 remaining on a UK offensive foul.
- UK had only one two-point basket, a tip-in by Kidd-Gilchrist, in the first 14:30 of the game. Lamb broke the spell with a basket and foul shot at the 5:30 mark.
- UKâ€™s biggest lead of the half was 15 points at 31-16 at 5:09 on the clock. Louisville rallied with a 13-0 run during a span of 2:18 to cut the lead to 31-29.
- UK hung on to lead at halftime 36-33 as Kidd-Gilchrist led all players with 16 points and nine rebounds.
- The teams combined for 28 fouls in the first half â€“ U of L 15, UK 13.
- Lamb and Teague had three fouls for UK while Chane Behanan and Rakeem Buckles had three for Louisville.
- UK shot 23 foul shots in the first half, most in a first half this season. UK made 17.
- U of L made 10 of 14 from the foul line in the first half.
- Louisville tied the game at 40 with 15:23 on the clock on a four-point play by Russ Smith.
- Kentucky entered the 1-and-1 with 14:56 to play. UK reclaimed the lead when Kidd-Gilchrist made the second of two free throws.
- The foul shot started a 7-0 run, followed by a Kidd-Gilchrist layup and four foul shots by Davis, giving UK a 47-40 lead.
- UK stretched the lead to as many as 13 points on two occasions late in the game.
- The teams combined for 52 fouls (U of L 29, UK 23) and 70 total foul shots.
- UK made 32 of 43 at the foul line, season highs in both categories.
- UK has had its three most prolific free-throw performances in the last three games, totaling 87 of 113 from the foul line vs. Loyola, Lamar and Louisville.
- Kentucky grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, leading to a 20-6 advantage in second-chance points.
- UK limited Louisville to 32.3 percent field-goal shooting, 20 of 62. The Wildcats came into the game leading the nation in field goal percentage defense (35.2).
- UK forced its 10th shot-clock violation of the season, matching the total for all of the 2010-11 season.
- UK is 59-1 under Calipari when the opponent scores 67 or fewer points.
- The Wildcats extended their home winning streak to 44 games, the longest active streak in the nation. The run includes the 2009 NIT game at Memorial Coliseum and the last 43 games at Rupp Arena.
- UK is a perfect 43-0 under Calipari at Rupp Arena, the longest win streak in venue history.
- UK owns a 469-60 all-time record in Rupp Arena.
- Since the 2000 season, Calipari-coached teams have posted a 197-19 record at home.
- In its 109th season of basketball, Kentucky is the NCAAâ€™s all-time wins leader with 2,065 wins.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist set career highs with 24 points and 19 rebounds.
- His second double-double of the season, also vs. North Carolina.
- Has scored double figures in seven-straight games.
- Also had career bests with 8 of 13 at the foul line.
- Named the gameâ€™s Most Valuable Player by the Bluegrass Sports Commission.
- Kidd-Gilchristâ€™s 19 rebounds is a UK-U of L series record.
- Anthony Davis totaled 18 points and 10 rebounds.
- Davis has seven double-doubles this season, and three consecutively. The last Wildcat with three straight double-doubles was DeMarcus Cousins when he had seven in a row in 2010.
- Davis blocked six shots. He has blocked at least three shots in five-straight games and leads the SEC with 4.5 per blocks game.
- Set career highs with 12 of 13 free throws.
- Terrence Jones continues to recover from his dislocated left pinkie finger but still managed to claim a season-high 11 rebounds.
- First double-digit rebounding game since the Final Four vs. UConn.