The Battle of the Bluegrass
The Battle of the Bluegrass never fails when it comes to producing a great game. This year the #6 Kentucky Wildcats, with a fast pace freshmen team, visited the defensive focused #10 Louisville Cardinals in a rowdy environment. This game has so much history behind it being one of the best rivalries in college basketball and bragging rights for an entire year. The Kentucky Wildcats had won 8 of the last 9 meetings under the Hall of Fame coach Calipari, but this year the Cardinals grabbed an amazing win on their home court.
At the beginning of this game, Kentucky seemed to play their style of play, which is a fast transition offense. They forced Louisville to play a half court game and were able to set up their defense to keep Louisville off the boards. Kentucky’s amazing combo guards, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, were able to put up points quickly and propel Kentucky to an early lead. Kentucky pushed the ball up the court after rebounds and made baskets and had easy layups. Louisville’s coach, Rick Pitino, implored his players to get back on defense and this slowed Kentucky’s transition offense. This forced Kentucky to play in the half court offense with Louisville’s tricky man defense.
The Cats went up by one point at half time making it 39-40 even with Malik Monk sitting out the majority of the first half with 2 fouls. After the half the Cardinals were able to make a few quick pushes into a lead of no more than 6-8, but Kentucky was able to get to the free throw line and chip away at the lead.
Louisville went up by 4 with under a minute to play and almost seemed to have the game put away until Malik Monk hit a three with 10 seconds left to make it a one point game. Donovan Mitchell was immediately fouled after the start of the next possession and was able to hit both shots from the charity stripe. Malik Monk made a late attempt to hit a three and send UK into overtime but fell short.
Coming into this game the explosive Kentucky team has been impeccable. They came into this game after a amazing performance against UNC. Kentucky’s star player Malik Monk has been an electrifying player averaging around 21.9 points per game and scored 47 in the win over UNC. However, during the Louisville game he was only held to 16 points, 35% from inside the arc, and 1-9 from three. This performance made Kentucky rely on other players to perform. De’Aaron Fox came up big for the cats with 21 points. Fox is known for his ability to handle the ball in tricky situations and deliver assists to set up plays. Fox averages 7.2 assists per game, but in The Battle of the Bluegrass he only delivered 3. During the game viewers saw big minutes from Bam Adebayo who played 35. He needed to stay in the game because of the collection of centers and big men that Louisville have in their arsenal.
The Louisville Cardinals have been on a five game win streak after the heart breaking loss to Baylor and were determined to keep the streak alive by following the veterans and beating the young Kentucky team. Louisville’s star sophomore player, Donovan Mitchell, usually averages 11.7 points per game and was able to grab 13 on the night, even though he sat for a majority of the second half. Mitchell only played 28 minutes of the game because he got into foul trouble early into the second half. However, the story of this Louisville team is based on the veteran, Quinten Snider, who had an amazing performance. Snider leads the team with an average of 3.8 assists a game and was able to get 5 assists on the night. Snider also added to his stellar night by being the teams highest scoring player with 22 points. He is the first Louisville Cardinal to get over 20 points in a single game all year. Louisville also showed their dominance from the three point line shooting 6-14 (42.9%). Lastly, Louisville bullied their way into the paint with 40 rebounds with a combined 21 from their big men. Louisville was able to find their way in the second half and hold off the high flying Kentucky Wildcats.