Dec. 28, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined for 28 points, including 11 during a critical second-half stretch with star Julius Randle sidelined by cramps, helping the 18th-ranked Wildcats beat No. 6 Louisville 73-66 on Saturday.
Randle’s 17 first-half points staked Kentucky (10-3) to a 41-36 halftime lead before the 6-foot-9 forward went to the locker room early in the second with leg cramps. He returned but cramped again and spent the rest of the game on the bench.
The Harrison twins amply filled the void, turning a 52-51 deficit with 11:01 remaining into a 68-58 lead with four minutes left. Andrew Harrison and James each scored 18 points with Young adding a key 3-pointer during the 17-6 run that helped Kentucky beat its in-state archrival for the fifth time in six meetings.
The Wildcats also earned their first win against a ranked opponent in four tries this season.
Russ Smith scored 19 points but was just 5 of 10 from the foul line for Louisville (11-2), which failed to capitalize after rallying from the halftime hole. Chris Jones added 18 points for the Cardinals, who missed their second chance to beat a top-25 school.
Kentucky has had the tougher early-season schedule, losing to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, which also beat Louisville last month. Cleveland State and Belmont have also pushed the Wildcats with their quickness and athleticism, qualities that coach John Calipari warned his team to expect often from Louisville.
Other than allowing Louisville to open both halves with runs, Kentucky handled everything the Cardinals tried, especially in the clutch.
The Wildcats outrebounded Louisville 44-36 including 17-12 offensively. Their significant size advantage kept the Cardinals from driving inside as they consistently contested shots and passes, and they controlled the offensive end 42-24 and held Louisville to 40 percent shooting.
Most importantly, Kentucky earned Bluegrass State bragging rights after a week in which Cardinals coach Rick Pitino and Calipari tried to stress the big-picture perspective. Besides cautioning players about putting too much weight in this game, both coaches also told them to block out the noise leading up to this well-hyped showdown. Louisville even went to Florida well ahead of last week’s game at FIU to keep his team focused and away from the talk-show chatter.
Tuning out the noise before 24,396 in Rupp Arena was another story. The standing-room only student section was filled an hour before tipoff and the din only grew louder – just after Louisville took the sea of Kentucky blue out of the game by scoring the first eight points.
Randle answered with five for the Wildcats, including a driving dunk for his first basket that quickly got the crowd excited. That play set the stage for a half in which he muscled his way past a variety of Louisville defenders on 7-of-8 shooting.
He got help from Young, whose 12 points including two 3-pointers provided the scoring alternative Kentucky needed with Louisville focused on stopping Randle. Andrew Harrison added seven points, helping to provide a 41-36 halftime lead as the Wildcats used their size to keep the Cardinals on the perimeter.
That wasn’t a problem for Louisville, which used Jones’ perimeter shooting to stay within reach. The junior college transfer scored 15 points on three from long range while Smith worked his way for 10 points including driving the lane for a huge dunk that maintained hope for a Louisville team needing that one spurt to get back in the game.
Sure enough, the Cardinals needed just 2:05 to tie it at 43 as Smith scored five points while Mangok Mathiang added a putback. With Randle in the locker room and sidelined again by cramps after that, Louisville grabbed its lead since 9:09 of the first half, 52-51, on Jones’ three-point play.