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The 10 most contentious Louisville-Kentucky rivalry moments

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Hate is such a strong word.

Kentucky v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Hate is such a strong word. For years, I have tried to teach my kids that they shouldn’t actually “hate” anything….not school, not homework or not having to go to bed on time. The only exception to that rule has and always will be Kentucky Basketball. Hate away, kids.

But enough about that. Anyone who has followed or is in any way connected to the UofL/UK Men’s Basketball rivalry is well aware of the vitriol and cattiness that it creates amongst the fans. Case in point, in 2012 two older gentlemen in the city of Louisville had to be separated by police after one (a UofL fan) punched another (a UK fan) because of an argument stemming from the two schools. The best part is that the melee took place at a kidney dialysis center while both were receiving treatment.

Laughable? Of course. Shocking? Well, not completely.

But fans aside, the players and coaches who have decided the outcomes of the games have also certainly had their moments of contentiousness throughout the years. In this piece, I take a quick look back at the top 10 most contentious moments in the Dream Game series. Granted, I am certain to have overlooked an incident or two but based on my memories which go back to the original in 1983, here’s my list…..

10. RAMEL BRADLEY vs. T-WILL

- Late in the second half of a 2007 game in which Louisville would defeat UK in Rupp Arena, David Padgett rolled to the hoop for what looked like an easy dunk. However, a hard foul was committed by Bradley preventing Padgett from scoring. Terrence Williams didn’t take too kindly to the nature of the foul and he confronted Bradley. The two exchanged several pleasantries and had to be restrained which served as a good reminder that the two programs remained like oil and water.

9. BOO BREWER TOSSES SEAN WOODS OVER HIS SHOLDER

- In a heated 1989 contest, again in Rupp Arena, UK guard Sean Woods drove down the lane for a runner and Brewer slid over to take a charge. Woods ended up landing on top of Brewer, across his left shoulder in fact. After hanging there for what seemed like an eternity, Brewer had saddled him long enough and tossed Woods to the floor. Woods had to be physically constrained by one of the officials to avoid attacking Brewer who stoically stood in lane looking at Woods.

Here It is in all it’s glory:

8. RICK PITINO FLIPS THE BIRD

- Following a loss in Rupp Arena (a game that would later prove to be the last Pitino would coach as the head man at Louisville in Rupp) Rick Pitino ever so slyly flipped the bird to a group of UK fans (who I’m certain were only there to tell Pitino who much they loved his last book) as he left the floor. Pitino would later go on to deny the incident but pics snapped during the occurrence tell a different story. Regardless, it was another incident involving Pitino that not only angered the UK fan base but it gave them even more rivalry fodder for months to come

7. JOHN CALAPARI HAS A MESSAGE FOR REGINAL DELK

- In 2010, John Calapari, coaching his first game in the UofL/UK rivalry as the head coach of Kentucky, told Louisville guard Reggie Delk that Eric Bledsoe would “whip his ass” and that he picked “the wrong guy” to jaw with. It’s often been rare that coaches and players actually have words in this rivalry but it happened on this day. Delk had just gotten tangled up with Bledsoe when trying to run him off a Samardo Samuels screen and the two had words prior to Calapari addressing Delk. The whole incident was caught live. Calapari said he didn’t know who was talking to when he made the statement (laughable) but the CBS announcers who called for his ejection during the game doubled down by defending their statements later. The rivalry had truly been renewed from a hate standpoint. Well done, John.

Here’s the live footage:

6. NATE JOHNSON vs. JAMAL MAGLIORE

- In the closing seconds of a decisive Louisville win over Kentucky in Freedom Hall in 1998, Nate Johnson received a pass from Marques Maybin along the baseline and went in for an exclamation point dunk. Jamal Magliore, however, was having none of it. He proceeded to foul Johnson, coming close to decapitating him. Johnson certainly took issue with the foul and the two squared off on the baseline. Pushing, shoving and jawing ensued. Magliore grabbed Eric Johnson by the neck and was later shoved by Tobiah Hopper. Fortunately, no actual punches were thrown and cooler heads prevailed but the situation came very close to utter Armageddon.

Here’s the full game. Fast forward near the end to the see the incident:

5. EDDIE SUTTON CALLS UofL “LITTLE BROTHER”

- In December of 1986, then UK coach Eddie Sutton made sure he put his thumbprint on the rivalry in an interview by first complimenting Louisville’s basketball program and following it up by claiming UK’s in-state superiority and calling Louisville the “little brother” of the Commonwealth. As expected, the quote enraged Louisville fans. I can still remember my own Dad, Gary, being pissed about it. As for the UK faithful, it gave them a term that they still use even today when referring to the Cardinals.

4. CHRIS MACK GOES ON SOCIAL MEDIA

- Louisville and UK were originally scheduled to play this season on Dec 12th. Because of COVID-19 and some other scheduling issues on UK’s end, the date was scrapped. Chris Mack, clearly miffed by UK’s unwillingness to make any scheduling amends recorded a live video where he proceeded to roast Calapari. The video speaks for itself so no commentary required. Many people questioned if the rivalry would continue to showcase any animosity or hatred now that Chris Mack was the head coach at UofL. Well, I think we have our answer….

3. DeMARCUS COUSINS – NEED I SAY MORE?

Again, we go back to the rivalry game in 2010. During a loose ball, Jared Swopshire and DeMarcus Cousins got tangled up on the floor. As a jump ball was being called, Cousins literally slammed Swop’s head to the Rupp Arena floor. Reggie Delk then came to Swop’s defense and gave Cousins a shove. The officials controlled the situation but the damage had already been done. Cousins rightfully received a technical foul but was not ejected which to this day is utterly amazing despite the fact that official Doug Shows saw the entire play right in front of his eyes and on replay. But, even more mind boggling is that Swopshire also got called for a technical. Cousins, who finished a game in which he should have been tossed from with 18 pts and 18 rebounds later went on to say that UofL “tried to rough them up.” The play would set the tone for the rivalry with Calapari on UK’s sideline and fuel UofL fans’ hatred for the most “misunderstood” college basketball player of all time.

Demarcus Cousins forearm to the face of a Louisville player! Christian Laettner should be proud. - YouTube

2. RICK PITINO BECOMES THE HEAD COACH AT UofL

- He literally resurrected UK’s program taking the Wildcats to three Final Fours and winning a National Championship. But when Rick Pitino agreed to become the head coach at Louisville the rivalry as we all knew it would change for the worse. The years under Pitino would serve as the most contentious in the history of the rivalry.

1. DENNY CRUM SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT

- Prior to the tip-off of the infamous 1983 Dream Game, Denny Crum was interviewed by CBS’ John Tesh (yes, that John Tesh). Tesh informed Crum that he had recently asked Joe B. Hall about why UK had previously not agreed to play Louisville in the regular season for decades. When Tesh informed Crum that Hall tried to walk out on the interview without answering, Denny replied, “Well, that’s typical.” Crum was not afraid to ruffle feathers and speak his mind and his take on the series would help set the tone for the greatest rivalry in college basketball.

Go Cards! Beat Kentucky!