Archrivals Kentucky and Louisville meet for the 35th time as the Cardinals travel the 71 miles down Interstate 64 to Lexington Saturday for their first true road game of the season. Both squads enter the game after earning big home wins on Tuesday – the Cats 101-72 over Eastern Kentucky, the Cards 107-56 over VMI.
The game marks the third time the teams have met since former UK coach Rick Pitino took over as head coach at Louisville. Last year, UofL came on strong in the second half to upend Kentucky, 81-63, in Freedom Hall. Kentucky won the first meeting in Lexington in 2001, 82-62. With that win, Tubby Smith became the first former assistant to earn a collegiate victory over Pitino.
Saturday?s game brings an added intensity to the rivalry as its the first time both squads have been ranked since Dec. 31, 1996 – when the 14th-ranked Cardinals played host to No. 3 Kentucky, who ran away with a 74-54 victory.
RADIO: UK Radio Network Tom Leach, play-by-play Mike Pratt, color Dave Baker, pregame host
TELEVISION: CBS Sports Gus Johnson, play-by-play Billy Packer, color
The Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals enter Saturday?s game with a 6-1 record after earning a 107-56 victory over VMI in Freedom Hall Tuesday. Guard Taquan Dean hit nine of his 12 three-point attempts to lead the Cards with 31 points.
Senior forward Francisco Garcia leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.6 ppg while shooting 45.2% from the field and 40.0% from three-point range. Luke Whitehead (14.9 ppg) and Dean (13.9 ppg) are UofL?s two other double-figure scorers, while Whitehead rounds out his double-double average with 10.4 rpg.
In his third season in Louisville, Rick Pitino is 50-21. He holds a 402-145 career record in his 18th season as a head coach.
Overall Record UK leads 23-11 in Lexington UK leads 13-3 in Louisville UK leads 8-6 at Neutral Sites Tied at 2-2 Smith vs. UL 3-3
? This marks the 35th meeting between the two teams, with UK holding a 23-11 advantage. The Cats have won three of the last four games, but dropped an 81-63 decision to the Cards in Freedom Hall last December. UK has not lost a regular-season game since.
? This is the 23rd meeting between Kentucky and Louisville since the series was renewed in 1983. UK has won 14 of those 22 games. The series began in 1913 with UK winning seven of the first nine contests. The teams then met three times in the NCAA Tournament between 1948-59. After a 24-year absence, the series was renewed at the 1983 Mideast region title game in Knoxville with Louisville winning the ?Dream Game,? 80-68 in overtime to advance to the Final Four.
? UK coach Tubby Smith is 3-3 versus Louisville, while Rick Pitino is 1-1 against the Cats after falling to Kentucky, 82-62, in Lexington during his first year at UofL. Pitino was 6-2 against the Cards while coaching at Kentucky, however.
? The Cats own a 13-3 record against UofL in Lexington, including an 8-2 mark at Rupp Arena.
? Louisville?s Alhaji Mohammed is the brother of former UK standout and current NBA player Nazr Mohammed.
? Cardinal Francisco Garcia and Wildcat Shagari Alleyne both hail from Bronx, N.Y. UK vs. Conference USA Kentucky is 130-45 (.743) against current members of Conference USA. Louisville is the only C-USA team on the UK schedule during the 2003-04 regular season. Last year, UK was 1-2 against the league, with a win over Tulane and losses to UofL and Marquette.
In their last three games the Cats have shot an incredible .599 from the field, including a .642 effort against Eastern Kentucky Tuesday. Kentucky has improved its season shooting percentage to 50.3% overall.
Should the Cats continue the hot shooting all season, it would mark the first time since 1985-86 that a UK squad shot better than 50.0% for the season. That team hit 51.4% of its shot for the season.
Hawkins Giveth, Hawkins Taketh Away Senior point guard Cliff Hawkins is getting the job done on both ends of the court. He currently leads the SEC in both assists (6.7 apg) and steals (2.9 spg).
A candidate for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year, Hawkins currently ranks 10th in career assists at UK with 348. He has 144 steals in his fourth year at UK and needs just nine to crack UK?s top 10. Undersized Cats Winning Board Battles Despite not having a starter over 6-8, Kentucky has won the rebounding matchup in all seven games this season. The Cats are outrebounding the opposition by 8.3 boards per game.
Due in part to that rebounding advantage, UK is outscoring it opponents in the paint an average of 44.0-25.1.
Cats Playing From Ahead
Of the 280 minutes (16,800 seconds) Kentucky has played thus far, the Cats have trailed for a total of only 67 seconds. UK was behind for 12 seconds in the season opener against Winthrop and for another 55 seconds versus Marshall. The Wildcats have not trailed in any of their last four games against UCLA, Michigan State, Indiana and EKU. Smith Closing In On 300 Wins Kentucky coach Tubby Smith needs just five more wins to reach 300 for his career. His current record is 295-109 (.730).
After defeating the ranked Michigan State Spartans on Dec. 13, the Wildcats moved into the top ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls. The Cats remain the top team in the land this week after defeating Indiana. Although second again this week in the AP poll, the Cats have received the most first-place votes (25), four more than No. 1 UConn.
Kentucky was No. 1 in both the AP and coaches? poll following the regular season last year (Mar. 17, 2003).
UK, which finished last season with a 32- 4 record, has been No.1 in the final AP ranking a nation-leading 11 times. Poll Cats
Kentucky has appeared in 49-consecutive AP polls, the fourth-longest current streak in the nation. The last time UK was not ranked by the AP was Feb. 6, 2001.