For the first 14 minutes of Friday’s annual rivalry game between Louisville and Kentucky, the Cardinals appeared up to the task of taking on the 16th-ranked Wildcats in Rupp Arena.
Louisville used an early 11-0 run to race out to a six-point lead, and then answered right back when Kentucky made a run to claim their own early advantage. A Malik Williams dunk with 7:52 to play evened the score at 21, where it remained for the next two minutes.
We don’t have to talk about what happened after that, but I suppose we should.
Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding each went to the bench with two fouls, and the home team took full advantage. Kentucky claimed a 41-27 halftime advantage and things only got worse from there. When all was said and done the Wildcats had stomped their in-state rivals by a final score of 90-61. The margin of victory was the largest in the series since a 76-46 UK win in 1999.
Basically, all of things that earlier in the week we said Louisville couldn’t afford to have happen wound up happening:
—Anas and Ray both got in foul trouble.
—Louisville didn’t out-duel Kentucky from beyond the arc, in fact, the Cards finished a woeful 3 for 25 from three.
—Neither Deng Adel nor Quentin Snider stepped up and had a “college star” performance.
—Kentucky killed Louisville in points off free-throws.
—The Cardinals, especially the younger players, did not handle the environment at Rupp very well.
I said back in October when the ish hit the fan that my new goal for this team was simply making the tournament. Some people agreed, others didn’t want to lower the bar that much. For the latter group, today is likely an event that demands a re-assessment on that front.
The fear now for Louisville is that what took place today in Lexington was so shocking that it might break this team. Hopefully everyone sticks together, continues to compete, and gives us more than a few feel-good moments during ACC play. Hopefully they remember that they played right with Purdue and Seton Hall, two teams that are cut from a similar cloth as Kentucky (one’s slightly better, one’s slightly worse).
Everyone got dealt a shitty hand here, but this can’t be the time where guys start pointing fingers and feeling sorry for themselves. This has to be the time where they go to work. If they don’t, 2018 might not bring a whole lot for us to feel good about.