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Kentucky Basketball: It Is Not The What, But The How That Mattered Against Louisville

Kentucky played the other team's game and came away with a relatively stress free win AT #4 Louisville

KAT Flex
KAT Flex
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When #1 ranked Kentucky took the floor against #4 Louisville the majority of pundits, fans, and other basketball aficionados expected a win from UK.  The betting line started out as a pick-em before immediately jumping to three points and in some cases up to seven and a half points.

Fast forward to the end of the game and our beloved ‘Cats had won by eight points, on the surface Kentucky did what was expected in disposing of the Cardinals... nothing more to see here.  As is the case with anything beautiful and complicated, the surface is simply the tip of the iceberg.

While All of Big Blue Nation is still rejoicing in the victory, as they should be, what I found most impressive is the way in which the Boys in Blue accomplished it.  The eight-point win might as well have been 15 or 20 with the way we won the game.

I want you to try something, I am going to list some of the following results, and I dare you to imagine how in the world we could have beaten a top five team on their home floor.

  • UK would only score 22 points in the first half and only 58 for the game
  • UK would only have two players score in double figures
  • The Harrisons would combine for 10 points, 6 rebounds, 7 turnovers, and shoot 19% from the field
  • Willie Cauley-Stein would be limited due to foul trouble
  • UK would have 18 turnovers, double the UL total
  • Only one UK player would register a blocked shot
  • UK would NOT shoot a free throw until five minutes into the 2nd half
  • UL would MAKE more free throws than UK would even ATTEMPT (17/14)

If the above scenario were to play out against any other decent team, I would put money that we lost that game... much less a win on the road against a top-five (supposedly) team.  This is what makes this team so special and makes beating Louisville in this manner so satisfying.  While the above list of negatives is troubling, here are some of the better positives.

  • Kentucky held UL to 25.9%shooting
  • UK would hold a +13 rebounding margin against one of the better rebounding teams in America
  • Kentucky would limit UL to under 20 points in the first half
  • UK would hold UL to ONE total assist for the game... that is not a typo, ONE assist.
  • UK held Montrezl Harrell to relative anonymity for the game.  He did have a solid 9-point, 8-rebound game but he also played every minute, and not to mention, the Cardinal faithful have dubbed Harrell as a player of the year candidate.

Many of those same fans have also taken to calling Harrell "MegaTrez."  From the hype vs. reality, they may want to change that to "InvisiTrez," or maybe "MehTrez."  Don't get me wrong, the kid is a solid player, but he had a national stage against the best team in America and barely showed up.

Harrell is apparently the all-time leading dunker (LOL) for the program and he came away with none for the game.  He also averages six chest-thumping screams per game (not an official stat) and I recall only seeing it happen once.  There was also this nugget where I am not sure if Harrell was trying to draw a flop-foul or if he was just not quite athletic enough to keep his feet, but either way you have to love the hustle and stare by WCS:

There is also, what I consider a microcosm of the Kentucky program and the Louisville program; Tyler Ulis was playing stingy defense, took an inadvertent elbow to the eye, and did not even flinch.  Ulis was too worried about playing defense instead of trying to draw a foul.  The elbow was hard enough that it needed significant work to stop the initial bleeding it and even then it bled on and off for the game.  However, to see it happen in real time and judging by Ulis' reactions, you had to take a look in slow motion to realize he got decked.

Tyler Ulis' full highlights for the UL game plus the aforementioned elbow.

The other side of that coin is Chris Jones, we all know about the flop... did you know he did it twice?  Jones went as far as rubbing his jaw for several minutes after the flop in what Jay Bilas deemed as an "Embarrassment."  This is the difference in UL and UK...  Kentucky takes the elbow and keeps playing, while UL tries to draw a fake call (multiple times).  I have never seen a team work harder to try to draw a foul on a team instead of trying to score.

There is also the letter to the editor that Louisville's emeritus professor Michael Cassaro wrote to the Louisville Courier-Journal after the beat down that UL took.  Anyone who watches basketball with any regularity or even keeps up with the game on a regular basis knows that the core of Rick Pitino's coaching strategy is to play a physical game that relies on non-foul calls.  Louisville is a team that likes to impose its will on the other team and physically wear them down.  Glenn had a response to that whine here.

The bottom line is that all of Cardinal metro area had their eyes on a potential run at a final four and a national title and they wanted nothing more in this world than to derail big brother's run at history.  There was so much riding on this game for UL that someone even created a twitter account called the Yum Police to try to point out seats that were inhabited by BBN so they could "boycott" the Louisville business that gave them up.  By the way, does anything scream little brother louder than that?

Louisville Courier-Journal columnist Adam Himmelsbach even received a request from a fan for surveillance footage of the game so they could go through and pick out the "offenders."  Truth be told, the UL fan base is one giant caricature and they supply more material than one could ever need in a lifetime.

Finally, Kentucky went into they Yum center with EVERYTHING to lose against a group of players sporting heart over hype shirts from Adidas for a rock fight.  UK went into that fight on the enemy's doorstep and right into their living room.  UK also played UL's game exactly how the ‘Cards would hope and lead virtually the entire game before covering everyone in Vegas' spread.  I do not know about you but if I talked smack to someone and they came into my house and undressed me, I would be a little embarrassed too Chris Jones.