The Kentucky Wildcats overcame a poor shooting effort and a gritty performance to pull away to a 69-62 win over Louisvlle on Saturday. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was an absolute beast for the Cats with 24 points and 19 rebounds while Anthony Davis had a huge second half to help the Wildcats pull away from the Cardinals in the second half after U of L fought back to force a 40-40 tie with 15 minutes to play.
The Wildcats actually led by 13 with 10 seconds to play, but a pair of late threes by Louisville's Russ Smith in the closing seconds made the final score closer than it actually was down the stretch.
The win was a huge positive for the Cats despite an underwhelming performance by Terrence Jones, but it says a lot about this team that on a day they shot 29-percent from the field and got no offensive contribution from Jones they were still able to win somewhat comfortably.
As thrilled as I was with the win, I am still bemused by this team's lack of a killer instinct. With U of L on the ropes late in the first half, it seemed the whole team went to sleep, turned the ball over like a thousand times, and let the Cardinals back in the game with a 13-0 run. I really believe if the Cats had kept executing there, they probably are up 20 at the break and end up running Rick Pitino and the Cardinals out of the gym, but instead mental lapses made this game much more interesting than it should have been.
As noted, Kidd-Gilchrist carried the Cats on this day. Quite simply, the Cardinals had no one who could guard him, and he was a beast on the boards as well. He was the only player who looked to be firing on all cylinders for all 40 minutes, and he was the main reason UK built what seemed to be a commanding 15 point lead with about five minutes in the first half.
As big as Kidd-Gilchrist was in the first frame, Anthony Davis was in the second half. With UK stuck on 38 points for over four minutes to open the second half, it was Davis who helped UK preserve the lead and
extend it. Davis had two blocked shots during the span and six for the game while scoring all 18 of his points in the second half. Davis, shooting under 60-percent from the foul line this season, made 12-of-13 in the game, many at crucial junctures to keep Louisville at bay.
Jones pulled down 11 rebounds, and the team out rebounded the Cardinals 49-28 in a dominating performance. Jones had just 2 points, however, and was 1-of-9 from the field. It seemed like every time he shot the ball, Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng was there to swat it away.
A few other observations…give credit where credit is due-the Cardinals played tremendous defense and were clearly intent on making this game a half-court slug fest, willing to concede fouling for a physical style of play. It reminded me a lot of Pitino’s teams at Kentucky, and in this case, it almost worked. If U of L could have knocked a few outside shots down, this game would have been much closer down the stretch.
Kudos also go to Cardinal Russ Smith who came off the bench to score 30 points to lead all scorers. You won’t see many players on any team quicker than Smith, but he was the only answer U of L had offensively against the Wildcats. With a little more help, who knows what might have happened.
Finally, to all the folks I hear complaining about the officiating, and it’s coming from both camps-shut up already! Take it from an official, that was a really well called game, and I tip my hats off to the referees calling a tight game early. It’s called preventive officiating, and if it had been done at the Cincinnati-Xavier game, that fight probably would not have happened.
Those officials know going in the level of intensity and rancor that exists in the UK/UL game, and their intent was to get it under control early-hence the quick technical against the Louisville player who flipped the ball at a Kentucky defender after being whistled for an offensive foul. That was a GREAT call-not because what the Cardinal kid did was so outrageous, but because that put both teams on notice that no nonsense would be tolerated. It was a “just play basketball” technical, and it worked-I didn’t see any other instance of dirty play or jawing going on-just good, hard, and intense basketball.
The bottom line on officiating is this-no official wants to call 52 fouls-they want it to be in a flow just as much as the players, coaches, and fans do. But it is up to the players to adjust to how a game is being called-and neither side did. Period.
Beyond that, it’s a great day to be a Wildcat fan! Go Big Blue!go back