The scoreboard of the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals, their rivals an hour west of Lexington on I-64, showed the score to be 69-64 in favor of the Cardinals. The Wildcats had trailed in the second half by as many as a dozen, after briefly taking a one point lead. With 50 seconds remaining Louisville’s Edgar Sosa was fouled by Ramon Harris, and then hit both charity attempts to push the lead to 71-64.
Down three scores it would seemingly take a miracle for the Cats to get back into this one. The Wildcats went on the offensive, but Jodie Meeks missed a three that may have cut deep into the lead. Perry Stevenson, who appeared to be everywhere all game long, tracked down the rebound and Meeks had another chance from behind the arc. Louisville’s Jerry Smith challenged the Meeks three a bit too much and committed basketball’s cardinal sin, he fouled Meeks on the shot attempt. Meeks sank all three charity attempts to cut the lead to four, 71-67; but only 38 seconds remained.
Kentucky went with its full court press, and Louisville found the going difficult, and called a timeout with 32 seconds remaining. After the time out Louisville’s Earl Clark attempted to pass the ball into a teammate, but a leaping Patrick Patterson tipped the ball almost as quickly as it left Clark’s hands. Patterson caught the ball and in one lightning quick motion hit Meeks streaking down the lane for quick deuce. Only one second hand gone off the clock and the Cats had pulled to within two points, 71-69.
Again the Cats employed a sticky full court press, with Patterson’s shadow looming large in front of Clark the Louisville forward sought to hit a teammate on a run out. Meeks baited Clark into the long throw and then in a move UK fans have seen Trevard Lindley make on the gridiron he played the ball just like the All American cornerback for the Liberty Bowl champs would have and cut in front of the ball for the INT.
Meeks immediately drove nearly three quarters of the court for a game tying layup attempt, he missed the basket when fouled hard by Clark. It was Clark’s fifth foul; he was done for the day.
Meeks calmly sank both free throws to know the score at 71. 23 seconds remained.
Finally able to inbound the ball and get it up the floor without incident Louisville’s Sosa called for a 1-4 set. Michael Porter played Sosa for the drive, as he had hurt the Cats a number of times on the high screen during the game. The Cards’ Will Scott moved up to set a screen on Porter at the arc, but Sosa waived him off. Seconds later Sosa pulls up well beyond the arc, where Porter had taken up his defensive stance for the drive, and drove a dagger through the Cats’ comeback with a long-range three from about twenty-five feet.
With only 2.3 seconds remaining the best the Cats could shot the Cats could manage was a desperation heave by Porter at the buzzer, which came up short.
The final score was 74-71, and Billy Gillispie was not a happy camper. Gillispie evaluated his team’s play. "I thought our transition defense was terrible and they were tougher than us in the lane."
Turnovers were a major problem for the Cats on the day, as they committed twenty-one for the game, fourteen of those coming in the game’s first stanza. Gillispie said of the turnovers and overall play of the Cats, "They had good pressure on us, but not to disrespect their pressure because it is good. I think it was more so us playing a little but nervous. I don’t think our discipline was very good today and that is 100% on the coach. I don't think that we had great discipline offensively and defensively. We missed assignments right down to the last time where Perry threw it away down two or three. And you can't do those types of things on a really good team's home court. We had 14 turnovers in the first half and Jodie had three I think in the first minute. And before we ever got a shot, once we stopped turning the ball over and getting the ball inside we played pretty well."
Kentucky fell to 11-4 on the season, while Louisville improved to 9-3.
Meeks led all scorers with 28 points, Patterson followed with second highest game total with 22 points and a game 15 boards. It was Patterson’s ninth double-double of the season.
Kentucky dominated second chance points 23-15, in large part to winning the rebounding battle 32-22.
Despite the turnover prone Cats huge discrepancy in the first half Louisville only scored two more point off turnovers than did the Cats, 24-22. For the game the Cardinals turned the ball over 15 times.
The difference in the game was that Louisville shot much better for this game than they had been shooting on the season, including from the charity stripe. The Cardinals came in a sub 70% FT shooting squad and connected on 19 of 23 attempts, good for 82.6%. On the season the Cards came into the game hitting under 40% from behind the arc, but hit 55% of their attempts against the Cats.
Despite Louisville having what looked like a dominant frontline the Cats more than held their own as the Wildcat defense held Clark to ten points and Samardo Samuels to four. Backups Terrence Jennings and George Goode did not score for the Cards. Clark and Samuels have been considered first round picks in next June’s NBA draft. Samuels was 2-3 from the field, but was limited to 11 minutes due to foul trouble. Clark was 2-11 from the field, and had a game high seven turnovers.
The Louisville defense limited Kentucky to 11 assists, well below their season average.
Louisville was led in scoring by Terrence Williams, who had a hot shooting night from the field, and finished with 19 points. Sosa added 18 for the Cards.