By Boyd Hayes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After a 40-minute roller coaster ride of basketball, the final buzzer declared UK Hoops victors in the Battle of the Bluegrass on Sunday. No. 9 UK (6-1) beat No. 7 Louisville (8-1) 48-47 in front of 15,453 fans in the KFC Yum! Center.
A sloppy first half left UK with a five point deficit to overcome, which grew to a 14-point deficit five minutes into the second half.
UK freshman guard Janee Thompson scored six straight points in the last minute to complete a Cats comeback, and sophomore forward Azia Bishop blocked Louisville’s final shot to close out the game.
Thompson scored 13 points total in 16 minutes on the court, all in the second half, making her one of four players from both teams to score in double digits. Her final six points were made up of three free-throws after being fouled on a three-point shot attempt with 59 seconds left in the game, and a shot-clock-beating three to win the game with nine seconds left.
Joining Thompson in double digits was junior forward DeNesha Stallworth (14) for UK and sophomore Sara Hammond (12) and junior Shoni Schimmel (13) for Louisville.
Neither team played convincingly efficient offense, as UK shot 18-55 (32.7 percent) with 23 turnovers while Louisville went 19-50 (38 percent) from the floor with 25 turnovers.
Despite her strong 13-point first-half performance, Schimmel did not score in the second half and led Louisville in turnovers with 11, due in large part to increased defensive pressure from UK sophomore Bria Goss.
UK senior A’dia Mathies, a Louisville native, did not play her best game in her hometown, only making two-of-nine shots from the field and two-of-five free-throws. She had six points and six rebounds total and left the game for much of the second half with cramps in her right leg. She did return to the court for the final minutes.
Overall, the teams were very closely matched, with similar shooting percentages, a small turnover margin, a small rebound margin and, in the end, a small margin of victory for UK.
Both teams ran deep as UK played 10 players and Louisville played nine. Louisville is missing several players with injury.
This is the sixth year for both UK head coach Matthew Mitchell and Louisville head coach Jeff Walz. In head-to-head matchups against each other, Mitchell leads the series 4-2.
UK plays next at home against DePaul in Rupp Arena for the “Pack the House” game. The Cats will face the Blue Demons on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.