LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky basketball got its first true road test Wednesday night at rival Louisville and the young Wildcats wilted. Up four with 6:52 to go, UK bricked several clutch free throws and watched the Cardinals pull away for a 73-70 victory.
For all their struggles, including just 39.7 percent shooting from the field, the sixth-ranked Cats (10-2) had a good look at a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds, but star Malik Monk missed for the eighth time in nine tries beyond the arc.
Tenth-ranked Louisville (11-1) beat Kentucky for just the second time in 10 tries with John Calipari as the Wildcats’ coach. Rick Pitino and the Cardinals had lost four in a row in the rivalry, but this time they had the best player in the game: Louisville native Quentin Snider, who had 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
“It’s Dec. 21,” Calipari said. “We’re not ready to go on an opponent’s court that’s a top-10 team and win. We’re not.”
The rivals played a frenetic first half, trading leads and threatening to pull away alternately. UK surged to a 20-14 lead with 13:06 to go before the break, but Louisville reeled off eight straight points. The Cards had their building boiling over when they were up 29-22, but the Cats countered with nine unanswered points.
By the break, Louisville had outshot and outrebounded Kentucky comfortably — and sent Monk to the bench with two fouls for the final eight-plus minutes — but trailed 40-39.
Player of the game
Bam Adebayo finally looked at times like a potential superstar, seeming almost suddenly to realize he’s a 6-foot-10, 260-pound athletic freak. He did his best Shaquille O’Neal impersonation on a series of rim-bending dunks — including one ferocious slam over 7-footer Anas Mahmoud. His 11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal were little consolation, though, for the freshman big man and his Wildcats.
Stat line of the game
Four days after torching North Carolina for 47 points — hitting 18-of-28 shots and 8-of-12 threes — Monk crashed back to earth against the Cardinals. He made just 6-of-17 field-goal attempts and missed his first seven 3-point tries, plus the last one. He still finished with 16 points, but Kentucky struggled to pick up the offensive slack on his rare off night.
Kentucky led 57-53 with 6:52 to go, but the Cats made just 3-of-8 free throws over the final 3:13, with multiple chances to close the gap after Louisville made a 14-5 run.
What’s next for Kentucky basketball
The Wildcats will resume Camp Cal, practicing multiple times a day, but also get a brief break for the holidays before opening conference play at Ole Miss (8-3) on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Kentucky’s SEC home opener is Jan. 3 against Texas A&M.
Kentucky vs Louisville box score