Rewind: Cats' rally falls short

LOUISVILLE 80, KENTUCKY 77
Dec. 29, 2012
KFC Yum! Center; Louisville, Ky.

Kentucky's Nerlens Noel attacks the rim against Louisville's Gorgui Dieng (Mark Zerof/TCP)

SUMMARY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Kentucky's perfection against Louisville with John Calipari at the controls is no more.

Louisville's pressure defense helped open a 17-point second half lead that Kentucky whittled all the way down to two before the No. 4 Cardinals made just enough plays down the stretch to hold on for an 80-77 victory at a rocking KFC Yum! Center. Kentucky made just 11-of-23 free throws in the loss.

Louisville opened the second half with a flurry, forcing four consecutive Kentucky turnovers for a 51-34 lead while threatening to turn the game into a laugher. The stretch saw John Calipari slapped with a technical foul by Ed Corbett for protesting a call.

Archie Goodwin scored a game-high 22 points, while Ryan Harrow added 17. Russ Smith poured in 21 points and had seven rebounds for Louisville, with Chane Behanan adding 20 points and Peyton Siva 19.

CALIPARI TALK
on taking the blame for the loss
“These kids are 18 years old. The last timeout with 1:08 – no one called a timeout. I’d think you’d know to call a timeout if we have one left, we score, you call a timeout. I’ve got to call that. They don’t know. So I’m proud of how they fought. I’m not real happy with my performance, but I don’t want this to take away from Louisville.”

OPPOSING VIEW
“We don't have the number in draft they have per say -- but I thought -- I told the CBS guys before the game I thought this was the first year we had as much talent as them. Quite frankly, I thought we had more talent than them because our talent is more experienced. They're going to be a great team come February.” - Louisville coach Rick Pitino, on his impressions of Kentucky

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
“I'm not going to blame Coach Cal because he's not the one out there playing. We are the ones out there playing and we're the ones that didn't make the shots, didn't get the defensive stops and let some guys have open shots.” – Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow, on Calipari blaming himself for the defeat

GAME BALL
Archie Goodwin scored more points, Kyle Wiltjer's three-pointers got the Cats back in the game and Willie Cauley-Stein flashed his potential but Ryan Harrow's performance may have been the most heartening thing for Kentucky fans to see in the loss. The sophomore point guard has been playing catch up since his two-week hiatus earlier in the season, steadily improving with each passing game but this was his most complete performance of the young season. Harrow scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and had two steals in 39 minutes of work but it was the goose egg in the turnover column that really punctuated his effort. Louisville spooks opposing guards better than any team in the country and Harrow never once looked rattled. That's a significantly positive development for the Cats.

TURNING POINT
Louisville won the game with its burst to open the second half, quickly turning a Calipari technical foul and the four consecutive Kentucky turnovers that followed into a threat of blowing the doors off the Cats. The lead ballooned from nine at halftime to 17 just 5:16 into the second half and UK looked dead in the water before a pair of Kyle Wiltjer threes changed the entire complexion of the game. Kentucky found its confidence, Louisville got in foul trouble and the Cats managed to get all the way back within two points before ultimately falling just short of their fifth straight victory over the Cardinals.

UNSUNG HERO
Willie Cauley-Stein drew his first starting assignment of the season, earning the nod over fellow freshman Alex Poythress, and he did not disappoint. Yes, Kentucky fans will bemoan the 7-foot forward's 0-of-4 mark from the free throw line (which was really 0-of-6 since the Cardinals had two lane violations that wiped out misses) but there was so much to like about his game. Cauley-Stein did not seem overwhelmed by the atmosphere in scoring six points, hauling in eight rebounds and blocking three shots. It's likely the exceptionally raw talent impressed the 20 NBA scouts who were in the building.

KEY NUMBER
47.8 – Rivalry games are almost always determined by the little things and Kentucky's dismal effort at the free throw line is what will eat it alive for the next few days. The Cats made just 11-of-23 from the charity stripe, with Cauley-Stein, Poythress and Nerlens Noel going a combined 2-of-11. You can't win close games on the road with those numbers.

FINAL THOUGHT
The result wasn't what Kentucky wanted but there has to be some acknowledgement of the fact the Cats could have folded up the tent and headed home when the Cardinals' lead reached 17 points, yet they didn't roll over. Calipari has been asking for more toughness and 'will to win' from this team and he clearly got that in this game despite the final outcome. It's a block he can certainly build upon moving forward.

NEXT
Kentucky (8-4) returns to Rupp Arena for its final non-conference game when it faces Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 2.

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