The Kentucky Wildcats came into Saturday with their season spinning out of control after a two-game skid in Vegas.
Thankfully, a win over Louisville was once again just what Kentucky needed, and for the 11th time under John Calipari, they got one.
However, this proved to be one of the hardest wins for the Cats to pull out over the last decade vs. their in-state rivals.
Being up 12 in the second half, the Wildcats lead was wiped away in just a few possessions. They then saw themselves trailing and with their backs against the wall. Both teams traded buckets down the stretch to send the game into overtime.
In the etra period, the Wildcats started down three yet continued to show that fight. They eventually sealed the deal, downing the No. 3 Cardinals by eight. While not the sole reason, a major part of their success, especially late, came at the free throw line.
It went Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey. With 28, 17, and 12 seconds left in the game respectively, all three Wildcats stepped up to the stripe and knocked down two huge free throws. The Wildcats ended up going 7/8 from the line in overtime.
Three of those makes, having almost a flawless overtime, were thanks to Richards, a 72% free throw shooter on the season. Richards finished 5/7 from the line also notching 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. But the two free throws he hit with the game tied at 70-all were arguably the biggest of his career, as it put the Wildcats ahead for good in a game they absolutely had to have.
The Wildcats were 21/25 from the free throw line. That 84% from the line was a huge factor. The free throw shooting, especially late in the game, arguably decided the Cardinals fate.
They shot just 9/20 from the stripe, 45%. While Kentucky need to be given credit, that right there is one reason why Louisville lost this game.
Being in the bonus early in the second half after just one free throw in the first half, the Cardinals couldn’t seal the deal.
And the Wildcats did.