Losing to little brother in basketball, although it’s only happened 16 times in history (Kentucky has beaten Louisville 34 times), is never fun or easy for the Big Blue Nation. It’s supposed to hurt; it hurts because both sides care so much.
That’s the beauty of a rivalry; fans talk as much trash as they possibly can leading up to these games. In the end, all our hopes, dreams, and general well-being comes down to if a handful of teenagers can come out and give a great performance for 40 minutes on a given night. It sounds silly, but in terms of sports in Kentucky, it’s about the biggest thing we’ve got.
It did not go in the Cats’ favor Wednesday in Louisville, as the Cardinals were able to dictate a slower tempo, resulting in a 73-70 U of L victory. Kentucky shot a horrendous 22.7 percent from three point range and 65.5 percent from the free throw line. Why De’Aaron Fox took six shots outside the paint Wednesday night is beyond me. He does not shoot well from that range.
At least having the game come before the Christmas holiday this year gives Kentucky fans something to look forward to in the immediate future, hopefully taking everyone’s mind off this loss.
Here’s a look at what they’re saying:
I hate when missed free throws become part of the narrative in any game.— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) December 22, 2016
It’s infuriating. Sometimes, it just happens. Cal has had a team or two in the past whose poor free throw percentage had a huge impact on the result of big games. Hopefully it was just a case of the first-road-game jitters.
Would-be bridge jumpers: Top 10 opponent. First road game. Rival. They shot really well from deep. You were 5-21. Sun's gonna come up.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) December 22, 2016
As Cal says all the time, it’s all about perspective; things are never as great as they seem and things are never as bad as they seem.
Fox and Monk combined for 37 points, but their defense, shot-selection and inability to settle their team down was brutal tonight.— TJ Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) December 22, 2016
I was really disappointed in Fox’s defensive effort. Did not think Snyder would have gone off for that many points.
Silver linings: Bam did some great things, Kentucky got an ego check, rivalry got a little more intense.— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) December 22, 2016
Louisville and Coach Pitino were due for a win vs. Kentucky, entering the game with a 1-8 record in their last nine tries. I’m happy to trade a basketball loss for a football win this season.
Ten assists are just not going to get it done; especially when most of those were in transition before #Louisville decided to play defense.— Josh Edwards (@JEdwar247) December 22, 2016
Yes, the Cats started the game looking like they always do; fast and on the move. Louisville made adjustments, buckled down, and severely limited the Cats transition scoring.
That one meant a ton to Pitino. You could see what it meant in the way he BREATHED before going to meet Calipari.— Justin Rowland (@RowlandRIVALS) December 22, 2016
Rick Pitino is a great college basketball coach and has taken this rivalry to a new level. I still hate him for what he did, but it has made for a better rivalry. Who knows how many more years he’ll last at Louisville?
Congrats to The 'Ville. Hard earned win. Both squads'll be better come March. Hopefully we'll meet again. @KentuckyMBB @UKSportsNetwork— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) December 22, 2016
See, it’s awesome that Kentucky has beaten Louisville in it’s last two tournament meetings, but I don’t wish to meet them in the tournament, ever. It’s too much pressure to handle for me as a fan. If we’re being hopeful, hopefully Louisville gets upset in the second round so we don’t have to worry about playing them again.
Calipari walks to podium crumples up stat sheet. Said his team had lack of discipline.— Curtis Burch (@curtisburch) December 22, 2016
Learning to compete at a high level against high-level opponents is tough enough on an 18 or 19-year-old. It takes a lot of focus and determination to stay disciplined. It’s that much tougher when you go into true road environments.
"On Dec. 21 we are not good enough to go on the road and win at a top-10 team." - Cal— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 22, 2016
Quentin Snider's dad said Tyler Ulis texted Snider after last year's UK-UofL game. "Be more aggressive," Ulis said. He sure was tonight.— Ben Roberts (@BenRobertsHL) December 22, 2016
Let’s make a new rule from here on out for Kentucky players: No texting other players, especially other Louisville players, until the season is over.
Officiating a factor? No more or no less than any other game. Players decided this one. UK will probably slide 2-3 spots in poll. UL up 1-2.— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) December 22, 2016
I caught myself getting extremely angry with a few calls throughout the course of the night, but that’s basketball. When you shoot the way the Cats shot, you can’t expect to beat a top-10 opponent on its home floor.
Kentucky Sports Radio’s Tyler Thompson provided her takeaways from Wednesday night’s loss:
Quentin Snider won the matchup with De’Aaron Fox
Who knew Quentin Snider would have such a game? Snider was unstoppable, scoring a game-high 22 points along with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. On the flip side, De’Aaron Fox scored 21 points, but only had 3 assists to 4 turnovers. De’Aaron showed why he’s one of the most talented players in the country with speed so fast ESPN’s cameras couldn’t keep up, but he also showcased some poor defense and questionable shot selection. Never thought I’d say it, but Snider outplayed Fox tonight.
Can Camp Cal please include a lesson on shot selection?
Because I can’t see another contested 18 footer or a bizarre jumper when the lane’s wide open. This has been a problem all season, but our guards especially need to learn to drive and get fouled instead of taking an ill-advised jumper. Speaking of getting fouled…
Free throws, free throws, free throws
If you look at the stat sheet, the reason UK lost is clear: free throws. Kentucky was 19-29 from the line and five of those misses came from Bam, who had the chance to tighten the game in the final minutes but failed. Gotta hit those, they free!
The Herald-Leader’s John Clay added some good points about Louisville’s defense:
Louisville’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, the Cardinals came into the game as the nation’s most efficient defense, according to advanced analytics. They held Kentucky, a team that had scored 103 points in victory against North Carolina and 92 points in defeat against UCLA, to just 39.7 percent shooting and 70 points.
The Cats hit just five of their 22 three-point attempts, and many of those shots appeared rushed in a vain effort to get the visitors back in the game, or catch up in a hurry.
“We had a lack of discipline, and that’s on me,” Calipari said. “If we’re playing that way, then that means I’ve accepted it.”
Then again, these are learning experiences. This was the first time that the Cats had played in front of a hostile crowd, much less a Louisville crowd that wanted desperately to turn the tide back in its favor.
Maybe Kentucky fans should just think of this as getting something out of the way. After all, in Calipari’s eight years as head coach, UK is now 2-6 the first time it plays on an opponent’s home floor in a season.
“The good news is, it is Dec. 21,” the coach said.
SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker talked about how great Bam Adebayo’s performance was and why it was so frustrating that his teammates couldn’t seem to find him enough:
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman forward, who his built like muscle-bound NBA star Dwight Howard, has struggled at times to harness that power in the paint. Not against the Cardinals. He channeled another former Orlando Magic big man, Shaquille O’Neal, as he repeatedly threated to rip down the rim.
“Coming into the game, we knew that he was going to overpower their bigs, so we were trying to get it to him,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “When we did, he did what he had to do. He dunked on people left and right.”
But then, suddenly and inexplicably, the Wildcats didn’t try to get him the ball. That’s the bad news. Adebayo, who finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal, did not make another basket after his second of two dunks in two minutes tied the game at 53 with 10:31 to go.
He only attempted one more shot the rest of the way – although he also missed 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch.
“Bam should have been getting the ball,” coach John Calipari said. “We’re taking step-back, crossover, jacked-up (shots). And it’s one thing (if), ‘OK, I made five in a row.’ Wait a minute, you missed six now.”
I firmly hold that Kentucky vs. Louisville is the single greatest rivalry in college basketball. And make no mistake, Louisville played a better game Wednesday night. Hats off to the Cards, who opened up as the favorite and got the win at home. They deserved it. Even more so, the U of L fan base deserved this one. I have a lot of friends who are Louisville fans, and I give them credit for having stood by a program in the midst of one of the most epicly corrupt and scandalous years in the history of college athletics. With the utmost sincerity: you deserve this, Louisville fans.
Kentucky’s next game is set for Thursday, December 29 at 7p.m., when the Wildcats travel to Oxford, MS, to take on Ole Miss in their SEC opener.