December 31st. Rupp. Louisville vs. Kentucky. The Cardinals committed more fouls (29) than made baskets (20). Kentucky committed more turnovers (20) than made baskets (17). The Wildcats went to the foul line 43 times. Louisville starters: 8-for-35 shooting, including a combined 4-for-23 from the starting backcourt of Chris Smith and Siva. But Kentucky’s backcourt didn’t fare much better. Teague, Lamb and Miller were just 4-for-23 shooting against Louisville’s pesky backcourt.
Kentucky won, 69-62. (For the gamblers, Louisville miraculously covered 7.5. Kentucky was up by 13 with :10 left when Rus Smith made a 3-pointer, then stole the inbounds pass and made another one with :01 left.)
Kentucky opened up a 31-15 lead in the first half, but a furious run in the final minutes of the first half – Russ Smith scored nine points – cut the deficit to 36-33 at halftime. As foul trouble mounted for the Cardinals (Chane Behanan fouled out in just 15 minutes; four players had foul fouls), Kentucky broke open a 40-40 game with seven straight and never trailed again.
Behanan will be a key figure against Kentucky because he’ll likely match up against Terrence Jones. Behanan has improved significantly as the season has progressed (well, not as much as Dieng, who blocked six shots against UK), and is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the NCAA tourney.
Dieng, of course, will be the key for Louisville. If he gets in foul trouble, forget about it. Louisville will have no shot because it has no depth to hang with Anthony Davis inside.
Russ Smith scored 30 against UK in the first meeting, but you can be certain if he gets cooking again, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (24 points, 19 rebounds in the first meeting) will shut him down like he does everyone. MKG mostly defending Kyle Kuric in the first meeting, and held him to four shot attempts (two points).
Just a guess, but Louisville, behind defense and familiarity, is able to keep the game close throughout and cover the spread (9). I’d also give the coaching edge to Pitino. I just hope the referees let them play, unlike three of the four Elite 8 games, which were marred by inconsistent and poor officiating.