Louisville Holds Off UK, 80-77

12/29/2012 08:25 PM

It felt kind of strange in the aftermath of the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game to see both fan bases generally happy. But that seemed to be the mood following UofL’s 80-77 win over the Cats in front of a record-crowd at the KFC Yum Center.

On the Louisville side, Rick Pitino and the Cards ended a four-game losing streak to John Calipari and the Cats. UofL’s No. 4 ranking will remain intact, and the Cards will continue to be talked about as a team that could win it all. UofL’s star players had star performances. (Russ Smith 21 points, seven rebounds; Chane Behanan 20 points, seven rebounds; Peyton Siva, 19 points). But let’s be real, this was all about the streak. It had become an albatross that ate at UofL fans, only magnified by last season’s Final Four loss, UK’s national title, and Cal’s continued visibility and momentum on the recruiting trail . Now Card fans can finally puff out their chests a little bit at the water cooler.

As for Kentucky, going into the game, even some of the most die-hard Big Blue apologists were apprehensive of the Cats’ chances of even staying in the game, much less winning it. And when the Cats fell behind 17 in the second half, the UK fans’ worst nightmare appeared on the verge of becoming a reality.

Then Calipari’s club showed the heart and toughness that had been M.I.A. for much of the season. Kyle Wiltjer made shots. Archie Goodwin just flat out made plays. Ryan Harrow took another step towards putting his previous issues in the rear-view mirror with a 39-minute, 17-point, no turnover performance. Big men Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein combined for 14 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. If they can make free throws and Cal finds a way to flip the switch and turn on Alex Poythress’ motor, the Cats will be a team no one wants to face in March.

Even true basketball fans without a dog in the fight were winners. Going into the game, I thought it would be only of those intense, ugly, physical defensive skirmishes that ended up 62-55. But it was a surprisingly well-played game. Both teams shot over 48 percent and combined for just 23 turnovers.

The Cards earned a much needed win while UK earned some much-needed confidence and respect. If ever a UK-UofL game could be called a win-win for both parties, today was it. Now, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see another rematch in March just like last year.

Thomas Beisner

TJ is an Anchor for Spectrum News. You can catch his work on KSTV, the only nightly show in the state focusing on UK Sports. When it comes to UK Basketball, TJ covers recruiting, the NCAA tournament and everything in between. During March TJ probably sees the players more than he sees his family but he’s able to provide Spectrum News viewers the unique insight that only a lifelong fan can give. He’s also taken on several special programs including “Wildcat Forever: The John Stewart Story.” KSTV airs weeknights at 7:30 and 11pm on Spectrum News. You can also catch podcasts of the show as well as bonus podcasts, just find KSTV on Itunes. For the latest on everything going on with UK Athletics, recruiting or if you just need some hilarious parenting anecdotes follow TJ on Twitter @tjbeisner.

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