Men's Basketball

Dec 28, 2002

Box Score?|?Photo Gallery

AP Sports Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – If Rick Pitino took any extra satisfaction from his new team beating his old team, he barely showed it.

As the final seconds ticked off in Louisville’s 81-63 upset of No. 14 Kentucky at Freedom Hall on Saturday, Pitino got up from his crouch on the sideline and calmly walked to midcourt to shake hands with Wildcats coach Tubby Smith, his former assistant.

“Everyone will say, ‘Well, he’s holding it in,’ but I love beating Kentucky as much as I love beating anybody else,” said Pitino, who coached the Wildcats from 1989-97 and led them to the 1996 national championship.

But a smile sneaked across Pitino’s face during his postgame news conference.

“I don’t have any special feelings, but it would’ve been terrible if we’d have lost,” he said.

Kentucky transfer Marvin Stone scored 16 points and Ellis Myles had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Louisville (7-1), which snapped a three-game losing streak to its rival.

Pitino avenged a 20-point loss to the Wildcats in his much-ballyhooed return to Rupp Arena last December. He was making his first appearance in his former home arena, and fans screamed insults at him from the start in Kentucky’s 82-62 victory.

The rude reception stuck with the Cardinals.

“We really wanted to get this win for Coach, the way they treated him last year,” Myles said.

The atmosphere was much different in Freedom Hall on Saturday.

Louisville’s fans gave Pitino polite applause as he took the floor. They let out a more exuberant cheer when he was introduced after his starting lineup.

Kentucky (6-3) quieted the crowd with a fast start, dominating the boards and building a 20-9 lead. The Wildcats got 15 of the first 16 rebounds in the game.

“I told my assistants if we don’t start rebounding, we’re practicing tonight,” Pitino said. “I don’t know if my staff told my team.”

But the rebounding evened out, and the Cardinals improved their defense. Kentucky had only three baskets in the last five minutes.

The Wildcats led 33-30 at halftime, but Erik Brown, who’s from Lexington, made a 3-pointer with 17:03 left to initiate a 17-4 run by the Cardinals.

Kentucky opened the game by shooting 9-of-17 from the field, then missed 19 of its next 24 shots, including nine of the first 10 at the start of the second half.

“We ran out of gas way too early,” said Chuck Hayes, who had 11 points. “We lost confidence too early. We had shots inside, we just couldn’t get them to fall.”

The crowd noise intensified with each Louisville basket as the lead bulged to 47-37 by the 14-minute mark.

“The home court was the difference,” Pitino said. “I know how much this game meant to our fans.”

Reece Gaines, Louisville’s leading scorer, hit a 3-pointer – his first basket – with 10:18 left to give the Cardinals a 60-47 lead. The Cardinals made five of their first seven shots from beyond the arc in the second half.

The Wildcats went more than five minutes without a field goal in the second half and never got closer than 17 in the last five minutes.

Pitino popped a breath mint into his mouth in the final minute, then shook hands with Smith when it was over.

“This is the kind of rivalry I like – no bitterness,” Pitino said.

The Wildcats were stunned at the margin. “Embarrassing,” point guard Cliff Hawkins said.

“It is a really surprising,” said Marquis Estill, who fouled out after scoring only six points. “What hurts the most is we could’ve put a hurt on them. But we didn’t.”

Estill matched up with Stone, his close friend, and Stone dominated the matchup.

“It feels good, really good,” said Stone, who transferred to Louisville last January. “It’s a load off, but it’s a big win. I’m thrilled and excited.”

Smith, meanwhile, was left to wonder about the emotional state of his team. The Wildcats have three games this week before starting play in the SEC.

“A big game like this takes something out of you,” he said. “We need to get that confidence, that swagger back.”

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