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Louisville-Kentucky preview

A Battle for the Bluegrass game unlike any other goes down Thursday night.

SPORTS-BKC-CLAY-COLUMN-LX Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Louisville Cardinals (5-6, 0-1) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (8-2, 0-0)

Battle for the Bluegrass

Game Time: 6 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst)

Favorite: Kentucky by 13.5

Series: Kentucky leads, 38-17

Last Meeting: Kentucky won 86-63 on Dec. 31, 2022 in Lexington

Series History:

Probable Starting Lineups:

Louisville

  • G Skyy Clark (6-3, 205, So.)
  • G Ty-Laur Johnson (6-0. 160, Fr.)
  • G/F Mike James (6-5, 200, R-So.)
  • G Tre White (6-7, 205, So.)
  • F Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6-10, 240, Jr.)

Kentucky

  • G D.J. Wagner (6-4, 192, Fr.)
  • G Antonio Reeves (6-6, 195, 5th)
  • G Justin Edwards (6-8, 203, Fr.)
  • F Tre Mitchell (6-9, 231, Gr.)
  • F Aaron Bradshaw (7-1, 226, Fr.)

Statistics:

Kentucky’s Season to Date:

Relevant Videos:

About Kentucky:

John Calipari’s Wildcats enter their annual rivalry game with Louisville owning a top 10 national ranking and riding the high of their biggest win of the season, a neutral court toppling of North Carolina.

The explosive Wildcats are averaging a whopping 90.2 points per game, good for sixth-best in the country.

Though UK once again boasts a youthful roster, they’re led in scoring by fifth-year senior Antonio Reeves, who’s averaging 17.1 ppg. Reeves, at times, can display some poor shot selection, and his lack of next-level athleticism is evident against elite competition. Neither of those things should be an issue for him on Thursday evening.

The freshman trio of Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard and D.J. Wagner (hey, did you know his grandpa’s on U of L’s staff?) are all averaging double figures, and any one of them have the ability to go off for 25+ against the Cardinals.

Kentucky plays at a breakneck pace without turning the ball over a ton. They shoot the three much, much better than they have in recent years. And they’re much better inside now that freshman Aaron Bradshaw is healthy and allowing West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell to over to his natural spot at the four.

They’re pretty good. We aren’t.

Notable:

—The last time Louisville and Kentucky played before Christmas was also a Dec. 21 game played inside the KFC Yum Center. Louisville won that 2016 game, 73-70. It would ultimately be Rick Pitino’s final appearance in the rivalry.

—No. 9 Kentucky will be the second ranked team that Louisville has played this season following No. 19 Texas. The Cardinals are 62-77 against top-25 teams over the last 14 years. They’ve won 23 of their last 58 games against top-10 teams.

—John Calipari is 18-8 against Louisville overall, and 12-3 against the Cards as the head coach of Kentucky.

—Favorites have failed to cover the spread in 10 of the last 14 meetings between these two teams.

—Louisville head coach Kenny Payne spent 10 seasons as an assistant coach and later associate head coach at Kentucky from 2010-20 under coach John Calipari. The Wildcats went a combined 295-73 during Payne’s time with the program, reaching six NCAA Elite Eights and four Final Fours, and claiming the 2012 national championship.

—As Kentucky’s head coach, John Calipari is 23-3 against other programs from the state of Kentucky.

—The team that has won the battle of the shooting percentages has won 13 of the last 15 games in this series.

—After allowing UMBC and Chattanooga to make 25 of 55 combined 3-pointers (45.5%) in the first two games, the Cardinals have held their last nine opponents to a combined 41-for-175 from 3-point range (23.4%). As of Tuesday, Louisville ranked 34th in the country in 3-point defense at 28.7% overall.

—Louisville has won 94 of its last 102 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last 11 seasons.

—Despite going 2-5 last season and being 5-2 so far this year, Louisville has still won 96 of its last 107 non-conference games at the KFC Yum Center, a mark which spans over the last 11 seasons.

—Inside the KFC Yum Center, Louisville has a 103-15 record in non-conference games.

—Louisville is 222-15 over the last 20 seasons and 19-3 over the last three when scoring 80 points or more. The Cards are 3-1 in such games this season.

—Since 2004, Louisville is 129-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.

—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Kentucky 86, Louisville 73