UK-UofL, Part 2: The meaning of the rivalry

The first time he was getting ready to play Louisville, Josh Harrellson wasn’t entirely sure what all of ‘it’ was all about.

“I came in here, the first time we were about to play them, and everybody was all ‘I hate Louisville,” the senior center from Missouri said. “I was like, why? I mean, I don’t really hate them. I want to beat them of course, but I don’t really hate them like that.”

However, his dislike of the Cardinals has grown through a combination of factors.

“Since last year, I don’t like them even more,” Harrellson said in reference to the chippy play and multiple confrontations between the two teams. “And other people hating on them has been wearing off on me.”

Some of that rubbing off may have stemmed from online, where Harrellson says he sees plenty of expressed distaste for a certain team.

“I got on Facebook earlier, and I saw a bunch of statuses like ’24 hours and 10 minutes,’ like it’s the countdown to the game,” Harrellson said. “Everybody’s anticipating this game more than any other this whole season.”

UK itself hasn’t quite placed that large of a burden on the importance of the game.

“Because it’s an in-state game, it’s not like it’s an important game. It is. More so to the fans than to my staff,” head coach John Calipari said. “I know everybody made it like the biggest game of the century, which I try not to do that. For us, it’s the next game.”

Harrellson said Calipari has slightly betrayed that ‘next game’ mantra in the preparation leading up to the game.

“He tries to act like it’s just a normal game, but you can tell he’s more pumped for this game than most others, and that’s the same with all the players,” Harrellson said. Calipari, told this, denied he was doing anything different.

But the ‘next game’ might bring some vitriol toward Calipari from a capacity crowd looking to break the Yum! Center in, as it’s the first rivalry game being played in Louisville’s new arena.

“I imagine they will have a nice cheer for me,” Calipari said. “Tomorrow, they will be bursting at the seams. And we know that.”

And not only bursting at the seams, but having trouble getting to bed as the anticipation builds.

“I know this, it wakes up the state,” Calipari said. “It shakes everybody out of their bed early, the night before they can’t sleep, then they wake up at 6 o’clock (wondering if) they missed the game.”

This is a special game for the state of Kentucky. Even for those from Kentucky, like Darius Miller, it can be difficult to figure out the source of the hatred. And for those not actually from Kentucky — like most of UK’s roster — it can be a point of confusion.

“I really have no clue, but all (the fans) care about is us whooping them,” Harrellson said. “So hopefully we can come and there and do it for them.”



Josh Harrellson talks about the nature of the rivalry and how players perceive it compared to fans:

John Calipari on all things rivalry games:

DeAndre Liggins on Chicago basketball preparing him for physicality of game:

Darius Miller on the nature of the rivalry game growing up in Kentucky: