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Louisville Cardinals (4) at Kentucky Wildcats (3): Rivalry Game Thread

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, members of the Big Blue Nation all; the time has come. This is the official A Sea of Blue Rivalry Game Thread for the Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats basketball game for 2011. Game particulars as follows (as if it were really necessary) from UKAthletics.com:

Louisville @ Kentucky
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Sat., Dec. 31 - 12:00 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
Rupp Arena
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UL Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
TV: CBS
Radio: UK IMG
GameTracker
Live Audio
Text Updates
Live Postgame Press Conference

I don't need to go on and on about this game, so I won't. The Wildcats are coming off an 84-64 victory over the Lamar Cardinals, a victory which, while convincing, left the Big Blue Nation wanting better execution and fewer turnovers.

Louisville is smarting from their first loss of the year in the KFC Yum! Center, a narrow one to Big East foe Georgetown Hoyas, 71-68. Obviously, going down to arch-rival Kentucky would leave a bitter taste in their mouths going into the new year, so they are unquestionably focused and highly motivated to win this game.

Kentucky wins if they:

  1. Take care of the basketball. Louisville is #7 in the nation in forcing turnovers, and you'd best believe their defensive intensity will be at their peak today;
  2. Hold Kyle Kuric down. Louisville has a tough time scoring, and Kuric is critical to that effort. He is their best three point shooter, and can also score inside with his underrated athleticism.
  3. Keep Peyton Siva from slicing and dicing the defense in the lane. Siva is really hard to guard off the dribble, and Marquis Teague will have his hands full.
  4. Keep Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of foul trouble. That's going to be difficult, but it is necessary. Davis has had some foul problems when playing against really good inside talent, and Gorgui Deng and Chane Behannan are talented players.
  5. Rebound the basketball. Louisville is an excellent offensive rebounding team.
  6. Make free throws. Louisville will put UK on the line, perhaps a lot, due to their aggressive defense. Kentucky must make them.

Louisville wins if they

  1. Force Kentucky into a bunch of turnovers. This is something all UK fans should fear.
  2. Get Kentucky in foul trouble. Louisville is more of a slashing team, and that draws fouls. Louisville gets to the line. They don't usually shoot particularly well there, but they might against UK.
  3. Beat Kentucky with hustle. Louisville knows they are not as talented as UK, but they have won a lot of games this year by simply outworking the opponent. Kentucky has been vulnerable to this.
  4. They want it more. I simply cannot say enough about how important "want to" is in this game. Louisville has more factors motivating them than Kentucky.
  5. Allow Louisville to physically dominate them. Kentucky is not a physical team, and they have not responded particularly well to physical play.
  6. Live in the lane. Peyton Siva can really hurt Kentucky with his penetration by making tough baskets and getting fouled.

This is what we have been waiting for, Wildcats fans -- a chance to extend our winning streak over the despicable Cardinals to three games. Kentucky cannot treat this as "Just another game," as Calipari suggested he was, because trust me, Louisville won't be. They will bring all the passion and frustration of coming off a tough loss and being an underdog to a hated rival. If UK doesn't match this intensity (and Kidd-Gilchrist by himself won't be enough), then I don't like our chances.

If Kentucky takes care of the ball and plays with passion and intensity, they should win this game. The Wildcats have the advantage of talent, and the home court. It should be enough if they focus.

Go, 'Cats!