The time has finally arrived. The previous dozen games were but a warmup, a trial run, a few swings at the batting cages before the big leagues. Now the real work began as #3 Louisville faced #19 Kentucky.
And despite the game going to overtime for the first time in forever, the Cats came through late and the Cards lost 78-70.
Kentucky had uncharacteristically struggled coming into this game. After starting strong beating then top-ranked Michigan State, they’ve had some real puzzling losses, including two unranked teams Evansville and Utah. They’re currently on a two-game losing streaks and haven’t been able to mount a consistent offense.
But such problems have mattered little when it comes to this rivalry. Cards fans well know the strange magics at play here, the fell sorcery or rotten luck that befalls Louisville when they play the Wildcats. An unknown bench-warmer who suddenly has a night, a massive foul disparity that defies all reason, a freak injury or an unforgiving rim. It seems like the Cards don’t just face Kentucky, but the order of the universe itself.
The teams stayed close for the early part of the game, with neither squad able to put much of an offense together. Louisville didn’t score for over six minutes at one point in the first half. The teams traded leads several times and couldn’t get more than a couple points away from each other for most of the first 20 minutes.
The Cards still couldn’t score, and the Cats were finally able to capitalize, going on a 9-2 run as the half ended to get up to a 32-24 lead.
Louisville only shot 35.5 percent from the field in the first half, including only making one of their 11 attempted three-point shots.
It didn’t get any better early in the second, as the Cards still couldn’t shoot, and the Kentucky increased the lead to 12 points.Just when it looked like all hope was once again lost, Louisville went on a 14-3 run to get the deficit down to one. They would finally get the lead a few minutes later Dwayne Sutton three-pointer.
The lead wouldn’t last long as UK went on a 7-0 run to get the lead to six, but the Cards came back and the two squads swapped leads back and forth for the closing minutes of the game.
The game was tied with 10.6 seconds left and the Cats had the ball. They missed a last second tip-in to take the game to overtime.
The overtime period unfolded much the same, with both team’s neck-and-neck. An Enoch jumper tied the game with 48 seconds left in OT. Then things kind of fell apart for the Cards. They missed every shot they took while Kentucky went on an 8-0 run, mostly from the free throw line, to seal the game for the Cats.
The Cards struggled from the free throw line, only making nine of 20 shots from the charity stripe.
They were also in trouble beyond the three-point arc, usually a big part of their offense. Only making seven of 27 attempted three pointers.
Steven Enoch led Louisville with 18 points on 8-17 shooting. Lamar “Fresh” Kimble put up 12.
Dwayne Sutton had a double-double, with 14 points and pulling down 10 boards.
Notably absent was Jordan Nwora. Usually a consistent offensive force for the Cards, he only had eight points on 2-10 shooting.
Louisville falls to 11-2 on the season (2-0 ACC). Kentucky moves to 9-3 for the year.
The Cards will not have long to rest, as they start the conference season proper with a matchup against #17 Florida State on January 4.<