Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Louisville holds off Kentucky in another instant classic

Kentucky and Louisville gave us just about everything Wednesday night at the KFC Yum! Center. They gave us passion and pace; NBA talent and great guard play; runs and responses; dunks and dagger threes.
And in the end, the game gave No. 10 Louisville a 73-70 victory over No. 6 Kentucky, just its second win in the rivalry since John Calipari arrived in Lexington in 2009.
Four days after Wildcat freshmen guards made headlines in arguably the game of the year against North Carolina, it was their Louisville counterparts, and specifically junior point guard Quentin Snider, who won the day.
Snider scored 22 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including multiple clutch buckets down the stretch, and Kentucky’s Malik Monk missed a contested three with under five seconds remaining as Louisville survived.
Monk, who dropped 47 on North Carolina over the weekend, was plagued by foul trouble early on, and shot just 1-for-9 from beyond the arc. Fellow guard De’Aaron Fox led Kentucky with 21.
Louisville’s Deng Adel complemented Snider with 18 points and six rebounds. Both played 37 minutes.
The game featured 10 ties and nine lead changes, and countless more wild swings in front of a rabid Louisville crowd that rendered many of the arena’s 22,000-plus seats useless.
The opening 20 minutes of the game had a few distinct phases. The first was defined by Kentucky’s up-tempo offense. Fox and the Wildcats threw the ball ahead off both makes and misses, and, much to the ire of Rick Pitino, got to the rim with ease. They needed just 5:08 of game time to reach 17 points.
Louisville’s halfcourt offense and outside shooting kept it in the game, though. The Cardinals shot 5-for-11 from deep in the first half. A Snider triple brought the home team to within three, 17-14, at the first media timeout.
The half’s second phase commenced coming out of the timeout. With Louisville able to control Kentucky’s transition offense after the early lapses, the Wildcats went cold from the field and scoreless over a nearly five-minute stretch. With just under nine minutes remaining in the half, and the drought still ongoing, Monk was sent to the bench with his second personal foul. He would sit out the rest of the half.
Meanwhile, Adel heated up for Louisville. The sophomore hit two threes, the second of which gave Louisville its first lead at 22-20. A Snider layup minutes later concluded a 10-0 Cardinals run.
Kentucky’s Derek Willis then ended the drought with a baseline jumper, and the Wildcats found their footing. His three-pointer a few possessions later pulled Kentucky to within two, and a couple free throws and a Fox dunk off a steal regained the lead for the visitors.
The final phase of the half was back-and-forth. The highlight was this Bam Adebayo dunk over Anas Mahmoud, one of the nation’s best shot blockers:
Adebayo had a strong game, going 5-for-6 from the floor for 11 points. He shot just 1-of-6 from the free throw line, however. As a team, Kentucky missed 10 of its 29 attempts from the charity stripe.
Kentucky led by five with just over a minute to go in the half, but Snider scored four consecutive points off high ball screens to cut the deficit to one heading to the locker room.
Louisville started the second half well, especially on the defensive end. Adel had a chance to give the Cardinals a seven-point lead a little more than five minutes in, but he missed his layup. Fox skied for the rebound and floated an outlet pass to Isaiah Briscoe, who completed the four-point swing with a layup of his own and cut the lead to three.
With Louisville again up five, Adebayo threw down another thunderous dunk on Mahmoud:
With 11 minutes to play, Kentucky’s Mychal Mulder tied the game up with his second three of the game.
After a few hectic minutes, replete with loose balls, blocked shots, run-outs, shot clock violations and turnovers, Fox broke a 53-53 tie with a strong drive to the cup. Monk matched him soon after to make it 57-53, but Louisville, as it did all game, responded. An 8-0 run forced Calipari to call timeout with the home crowd rocking.
One of the biggest plays of the game came with just under four minutes left and Louisville up 63-61. Mahmoud retrieved an offensive rebound as he fell out of bounds and tossed it back to Adel, who hit Johnson with a pinpoint pass for a slam.
Snider took over the game late. He nearly put Adebayo on the floor with a crossover with 1:44 to play and his uncontested layup put Louisville up six, 69-63.
Fox’s three-point play with just under a minute to play made it a one-possession game. Adel’s turnover then led to a Kentucky breakout. It appeared that Briscoe’s pass to Monk had ruined any shot at transition points, but a questionable foul call sent Willis to the line. He hit one of two.
With a 10-second differential between game clock and shot clock, Mitchell drove and missed his layup, but Johnson recaptured Louisville’s two-possession lead with a putback.
Monk wouldn’t let the Cardinals fly away, though. He drilled a 26-footer, his only made three of the game, to chop the lead back to one.
Mitchell then hit two clutch free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining, and Monk came up short on his shot for the tie.
With the win, Louisville improves to 11-1 on the season, its only loss a 66-63 defeat at the hands of undefeated Baylor in the Bahamas. Things don’t get any easier for Pitino’s team, though. Next up are bouts with No. 12 Virginia and No. 16 Indiana.
Kentucky, meanwhile, falls to 10-2. The Wildcats open up conference play at Ole Miss next Thursday.

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