Cards crunch Cats, snap losing streak

UK head coach Billy Gillispie didn’t pause to choose his words carefully. He didn’t sugarcoat it. When asked about his team’s 89-75 loss to arch-rival Louisville on Jan. 5, his answer was short and simple.

“Just another whippin’, guys.”

Familiar problems doomed the Cats against Louisville. A 6:39 scoring drought in the first half put them behind 11 points. The Cats battled back to take a 31-30 halftime lead, but Louisville forced six turnovers in seven possessions spanning the end of the first and beginning of the second halves.

Louisville began the second half on a 9-0 run and stretched it into a 32-9 run, finishing off the Cats and putting Gillispie’s first UK team in a precarious position. With a 6-7 record, UK is becoming dangerously close to missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991.

Senior guards Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford paced the Cats with 27 and 19 points, respectively, but still suffered the first loss to Louisville of their careers. Five Cards, led by senior forward Juan Palacios and sophomore guard Jerry Smith, scored in double figures to help U of L earn its first win over UK since 2003.

But Gillispie is trying to stay positive. Though he admitted it didn’t necessarily show in the loss, Gillispie said his team is improving in practice now that sophomore guards Derrick Jasper and Jodie Meeks are healthy.

“I believe you gain in practice,” Gillispie said. “I’ve been seeing a lot of improvement in practice. We’ve had some possessions where it’s good, but we have to become a much tougher team, we have to become a much better defensive team and we have to start getting loose balls.”