UK-Louisville Recap

One of the most important games of DeMarcus Cousins’ young career came extremely close to being cut extremely short Saturday afternoon, after a replay showed Cousins threw an elbow at Louisville’s Jared Swopshire in a fight for a loose ball, just under two minutes into the game.  But, according to Cousins, that’s just the nature of the beast.

“It was intense,” Cousins said. “I was just going for the ball. They tried to get physical and we got physical with them. They tried to rough us up.”

Rough it up is right; the two teams combined for 51 fouls in 40 minutes of action, including five technicals and several instances where players were separated for either touching or talking a bit too aggressively.

In the end, it wasn’t enough to throw Kentucky completely off course.  They held on for a 71-62 victory that most UK fans–myself included–expected to be much bigger.

Cousins, despite the anger management issues early on, managed to lead Kentucky with 18 points and 18 rebounds, his fourth straight double-double and eighth of his 15-game career.  Patrick Patterson also chipped in with a 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including one three-pointer (despite only going  2-of-5 from the line).

But, as usual, the story of the game was John Wall.  The young man who’s the virtual lock to go number one overall in the 2010 NBA Draft made up for  a lackluster first half with 14 second-half points–including a run of six straight, all by himself–to close out the hated Cardinals.

Terrence Jennings’ free throws gave Louisville its first lead of the game, 42-41, at the 9:51 mark of the second half, but Kentucky answered immediately.  Wall hit a gorgeous hanging scoop shot along the baseline that put the Cats back up one, then came back down the court and drained a fade-away jumper to extend the lead to three.  To finish of the run, Wall stripped Peyton Siva–the 2nd (or 3rd, if you want to count Eric Bledsoe) heralded point guard prospect in the state–and knocked down two free throws after being fouled on the break.

“When a game gets a little tight like that, with the game on the line, it just shows you how great Wall is because it didn’t faze him,” Pitino said.

UK then drove  home the dagger with a reverse-lay up by Perry Stevenson, a three-pointer from Ramon Harris, and an old fashioned three-point play by Patterson to push the UK lead to ten, 55-45.

Louisville wouldn’t get any closer than seven the rest of the way, and though Kentucky came away with the victory, they missed a golden opportunity to hand Louisville the kind of Pitino v. Denny Crum-type of drubbing that UK fans were hoping for.  Louisville missed 17 of its first 18 shots, and never seemed to gather any semblance of an offensive attack.

Calipari had this to say after the game:

“I found the five guys that were not going to give an inch and I rode them the rest of the game.  When I found those last five, they weren’t after it…they have a will to win that is hard to just teach.”

Wall had this:

“I didn’t think I was going to get this level.  I always played good when I was in high school but playing for him, he’s going to take you to another level and get you better. I thought I was at the top of my potential when I was in high school. I’m nowhere near it.”

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