Cats fall in hard-fought loss to rival Louisville Cardinals


Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe looks on during the game against the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won the game 73-70.

Anthony Crawford

The rivalry between UK men’s basketball and the Louisville Cardinals was in danger of becoming overwhelmingly one-sided, as this year’s matchup between the No. 6 Cats and No. 10 Cards could have giving UK it’s ninth victory in the last ten meetings. But Louisville found a way to outlast UK in this year’s game, winning 73-70 at home in the KFC Yum! Center.

The game was largely defined by how difficult the Cardinals made life for the Cats for the game. The number one ranked defense from the Cards lived up to it’s reputation as it forced the Cats offense out of it’s rhythm and many youthful mistakes from UK was the result.

The first half was as back-and-forth as the rest of the game, but neither defense had really settled in and the game came a lot easier for both teams.

UK started out with some control in the game thanks to doing what they do best — getting out and running on the break. Freshman Malik Monk scored a quick six points in the first half, but then two quick fouls forced him to sit the rest of the half. 

With Monk out, UK’s offense lost its spark and UofL capitalized going on a run themselves. Hot shooting from outside fueled the Cards as they knocked down 5-of-11 three-pointers to take a 29-22 lead. 

Poise and shot-making from Quentin Snider and Deng Adel was the difference in the game as both seemingly had their way with the UK defense.

The Cats responded nicely, though, answering with their own 9-0 run and eventually took a 40-39 lead into halftime. 

Once play resumed in the second half, the play started to resemble much more the past games in this rivalry. Both defenses started to settle down and the game turned into a gritty, physical affair that left both teams fighting for every possession.

Despite his quick start, Monk had officially cooled off following his 47-point outing in UK’s last game against UNC, as he struggled from the floor and especially from deep against the Cards.

With UK forced to look elsewhere for points, De’Aaron Fox took on more of the scoring load. Fox finished with 21 points to lead UK but he struggled getting other involved finishing with only three assists and four turnovers.

UK also tried to look down low for points, feeding the ball to Bam Adebayo. The freshman big man converted on most opportunities, including a couple of poster dunks on Louisville seven-footer Anas Mahmoud, but UofL’s defense didn’t make it easy to get the ball inside.

For Louisville, both Adel and Snider stayed hot well into the second half. Snider finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. Adel with 18 points, while going 2-for-3 from downtown.

When those two weren’t making shots for the Cardinals, their offense was aided by how many second chances they got as they were able to pull down 12 offensive rebounds and win the battle on the glass overall 40-36. 

Despite shooting a poor percentage from the field and from three, UK somehow found themselves trailing only 69-63 with 1:44 left to play. Poor free throw shooting and a few key offensive rebounds from the Cardinals prevented a UK comeback up until the closing seconds.

Monk briefly showed flashes of the heroics he displayed against the Tar Heels draining a three with 12 seconds remaining in the game. Louisville made both free throws after being fouled on the next possession and UK was left with a three-point deficit with eight seconds remaining.

The Cats luck had run out, though, as Monk’s three-point attempt at the buzzer clanked off the front of the rim, ensuring the victory for the Cardinals.

The win gives Louisville just it’s second victory of UK since John Calipari was named head coach and makes UK’s record 8-2 in that span.