Today, the Wildcats did something I was not sure they could do -- win a tough, physical contest against a deeper team with a lot of talent. They did it by shooting 29% from the field, but they also made 74% of their free throws to defeat the Louisville Cardinals in Rupp Arena.
I thought Louisville played as hard and as intensely as is possible. Yes, they fouled way too much, but there have been games this year when that strategy would have put Kentucky in a bind, and on the road, it may well have worked. Unfortunately, it hurt even the extremely deep Cardinals when Kentucky made a high percentage of their charity tosses. Louisville deserves great credit for their effort, and they showed us unquestionably the best defense we have seen all year. The Cardinals stole the ball, blocked shots, and took charges. Against a lesser team, I don't see how they lose. But Kentucky is not a lesser team.
I thought, honestly, that Kentucky did not play a smart game overall, and that cost the Wildcats a lot of points and a lot of fouls. Overall, the game was mostly won by the individual efforts of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and surprisingly, Terrence Jones.
With that said, any win over Louisville is a great, spectacular, and in all other ways awesome win. I don't care if it's by 15 like it was last year, or a foul-plagued Sumo wrestling match like it was this year. It was a great win, and I am very happy to be able to wear my colors here in Louisville and watch Cardinal fans quail rather than hoot in derision. I think most of us who are forced to live in areas where Kentucky fans are outnumbered feel the same way.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. What can you say about 24 points and 19 rebounds? Without him, we lose this game. Game ball.
- Anthony Davis showed exactly what you miss when he is out of the game in the second half. 12-13 from the line, 18 points and 10 rebounds to go with 6 huge blocks and 3 steals. The layups that Louisville made in the first half got sent the other way in the second.
- Terrence Jones is still not himself, and his hand was obviously bothering him. With that said, he got 11 rebounds, 3 steals and played some pretty good defense. He helped the team.
- Marquis Teague had 5 assists, and did some good things on defense.
- Darius Miller had 3 offensive rebounds and a couple of big baskets.
- Twany Beckham got only two minutes late in the half with foul trouble, but he made a pretty assist to Kyle Wiltjer.
- The team shot free throws really well. Doron Lamb and Davis led the way.
- Kentucky simply dominated the glass, and Louisville is an awesome rebounding team, normally. That's really something, and says a lot about Kentucky's effort today.
- You have to admire Kentucky's defense as well, holding Louisville to 32% from the floor.
Not so superlative:
- Darius Miller's 8 turnovers. Ouch.
- Marquis Teague's 4 turnovers. Will it ever end?
- Doron Lamb, other than making free throws, was not very good. He made one big shot, but he got beat all the time on defense, turned the ball over four times, and just didn't play well in my opinion.
- Wiltjer had two rebounds in 15 minutes. He's 6'9"! C'mon, Kyle, rebound the ball!
- Jones's shooting -- from everywhere. Yes, he has an excuse, but it still stank.
- Dumb fouls. These guys have got to learn not to grab a defender after he picks their pocket. Just hustle back and try to turn a negative into a positive, don't create a double-negative. Same way when they get beat off the bounce -- trust your defensive rotation and don't foul.
Overall, we lost the turnover battle but made up for it by winning the rebounding and shooting excellent free throws. That's not the way you draw it up, obviously, but finding unusual paths to victory is just as important in the course of a season is winning by stellar play.
I'm very happy to win this game, and I know you all are as well. I did not think Kentucky played well at all, and without an extraordinary effort by three players, I think we lose this game. Credit Louisville's defense with a lot of that, but Kentucky helped them out quite a bit with really poor execution on offense and a lot of foolish grabbing and poor decision making. For me, I'm happy with the win, but disappointed the 'Cats didn't play better.