Rushed Reactions: #8 Kentucky 74, #4 Louisville 69Posted by Walker Carey on March 29th, 2014
Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent. He filed this report after #8 Kentucky’s 74-69 win over #4 Louisville. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
Three Key Takeaways.
- The atmosphere was unbelievable and the game lived up to the hype. The build up for the Sweet 16 edition of the Battle for the Bluegrass rightfully garnered a ton of national attention leading up to the tip. And boy, was it worth it. Lucas Oil Stadium was overtaken by Louisville and Kentucky fans. Red and blue were all over the place and both factions were loud and involved throughout the night. The game, itself, was a nail-biter to the very end. Both sides were living and dying with every possession and that made for an amazing atmosphere. When Kentucky emerged victorious, the Kentucky section acted as if a weight had been lifted from its shoulders. On the other hand, the Louisville fans were heartbroken over the close lose to their bitter rivals.
- Free throw shooting and rebounding did Louisville in. In a close game like Friday night, you can often pinpoint factors that played a big role in deciding the game. Those two factors in Louisville’s loss were its poor free throw shooting and inability to keep Kentucky off the offensive glass. The Cardinals were just 13-of-23 (including 6-of-15 in the first half) from the free throw line. Included in that statistic was that senior standout guard Russ Smith went just 4-of-10 from the charity stripe. Louisville also struggled keeping Kentucky’s bigs off the rebounding glass. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Cardinals 37-29 and gathered 15 offensive rebounds that led to 18 second chance points. A huge Kentucky offensive rebound came at the 2:11 mark when sophomore forward Alex Poythress grabbed a putback and converted a three-point play to turn a 66-63 deficit into a 66-66 tie – and that helped set the stage for the Wildcats to ultimately grab the lead and get the victory.
- Kentucky is no longer inexperienced. The story of the season for the Wildcats has been youth and inconsistency. It is fair to say that narrative is over, as Kentucky is on to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats showed their maturity Friday night by overcoming a seven-point deficit in the final 5:32. They were able to overcome that deficit due to the maturity of their young players. Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson were huge in the post all night, as they both finished with a team-high 15 points. Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison combined for seven assists and only three turnovers. Aaron Harrison hit an enormous three-pointer with 39 seconds to play to give the Wildcats a 70-68 lead and that was a lead they would not relinquish. This team has grown up and it has grown up in a hurry.
Player of the Game. Julius Randle, Kentucky. The freshman double-double machine was at it again Friday, as he poured in 15 points and grabbed 12 huge rebounds.
- “You cannot miss as many free throws as we missed and expect to win.” – Louisville coach Rick Pitino, addressing his team’s free throw shooting woes.
- “Alex Poythress won the game.” – Kentucky coach John Calipari, giving a ton of credit to his sophomore forward for his outstanding play late in the game.
- “You never know if it is going in for sure, but it felt good leaving by hand.” – Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison, describing his huge three-pointer.
- “It’s not a good ankle injury. Let me put it that way.” – Calipari, addressing the status of Kentucky sophomore big man Willie Cauley-Stein, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.
What’s Next. Kentucky advances to the Elite Eight where it will play #2 Michigan on Sunday afternoon. with a Final Four berth on the line.