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Kentucky Basketball: The good, bad and ugly vs Louisville Cardinals

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The Cats score their biggest win of the season while crushing their rivals.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one thing to win your 10th game of the season by 29 points, and it’s another to do it against your biggest rival.

After taking another tough December loss to UCLA, UK came in hot. The Kentucky Wildcats blew the Louisville Cardinals off the court with a resounding score of 90-61.

This game, as usual, was expected to be a nail-biter all the way through. But by halftime the Cats were already on fire leading the Cards 41-27.

The Cats truly ran away with this game even leading by as many as 32 points during the 2nd half. This game was the most impressive win of the season for Kentucky, but it was not without some good, bad, and ugly moments.

The Good

  • A win- Walking away with a win in this game was more important that any individual output. With Louisville getting the better of the Cats last year and just losing again to UCLA, UK could not afford to lose this game. This young group came in knowing this and ended up having their best game of the season.
  • Louisville lost- The best part about this game is that Louisville lost.
  • SGA- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had his best game of the season by far. He finished with a game-high 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. 17 of those points came in the 2nd half when he was put into the rotation more due to his 1st half performance. SGA blew the Cards away, and because of his outstanding performance, he was awarded MVP of the game.
  • Defense- UK’s defense was outstanding against a Cards team that always comes into Rupp motivated to win. UL was held to just 12% from three-point range only making 3 the entire game. This perimeter defense was UK’s best of the year. Louisville was also held to 34.8 FG%. The Cards ended the 1st half shooting a poor 1-12 and gave Kentucky the chance to run away with the game.
  • Confidence- Last week the Wildcats lost 83-75 against an unranked UCLA team. As a team of young players, keeping your confidence up is key, and this game was the perfect chance for them to grow in prime time.

The Bad

  • Kevin Knox- Knox had 8 points on 2-8 shooting and 0-3 from three-point range. This was not the Kevin we have grown accustomed to seeing on the court. This game showed us that even though UK has individual star players, such as Knox, they can survive and even flourish if he has a bad night. Knox needs to work on his consistency because come March the Wildcats will need all players at peak performing levels.
  • Early Energy- UK played as close to a full game as they have all season. The only rough part of the entire game was right off the bat. The Cards started off shooting 5-10 and went on multiple runs with the Cats unable to score. It didn’t take long, and once they woke up, Kentucky never took their foot off the peddle. If UK can keep up this momentum, it’ll be hard for any team to stay with them.
  • Foul Trouble- It wasn’t much, but the Cats did fall into some foul trouble which has been a problem for them all season. They had 6 players with two or more fouls. Kevin Knox fouled out late as well.

The Ugly

  • Offensive Rebounding- Although Louisville has two players above 6’9 UK still has a higher average height as a team. With the height, this team has they have yet to show aggressiveness attacking the boards. Both teams had the same amount of offensive rebounds (11).
  • This game was almost the peak of what Kentucky can be. I believe that before March we will see UK come up with a more consistent approach to the game than what they’ve been doing lately. Truly no matter what Kentucky did incorrectly in this game we can sleep happily knowing that they beat Louisville by the third largest amount in rivalry history.

The Cats will now have a quick turnaround, as they’ll look to win its first in-conference game when they open SEC play against Georgia on Sunday. The game will be at 6 pm EST and can be viewed on ESPN.