LEXINGTON, Ky. – Talking heads can hype Duke-North Carolina, a spectacular rivalry to be sure, but there is no more bitter basketball battle than Kentucky-Louisville, and tonight we get the 50th collision of Cats and Cards. Buckle up.
Sixth-ranked Kentucky (10-1) visits 10th-ranked Louisville looking for its second top-10 win in five days after a thrilling 103-100 victory over North Carolina in Las Vegas on Saturday. This should be a different kind of game, as the Cardinals are more inclined to slow the pace and try to win ugly.
Louisville has two good wins so far – over No. 15 Purdue and Wichita State – and blew a 20-point lead against No. 4 Baylor, losing by three. Kentucky has blown out Michigan State, smashed a strong Valparaiso team and survived the Tar Heels.
If all else is equal, the Cats have the coaching edge: John Calipari is 8-1 as UK’s coach against Rick Pitino, who is 5-12 overall facing his former program. Kentucky leads the all-time series 34-15, including a 25-12 mark since the Dream Game (1983 Elite Eight matchup) ended an almost quarter-century break between meetings and launched the rivalry in earnest.
Kentucky basketball vs. Louisville game time, details
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 21
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: KFC Yum! Center (22,090), Louisville, Ky.
Vegas Line: Pick ‘em
What TV channel is Kentucky basketball vs. Louisville on?
The game will be broadcast on ESPN (DirecTV channel 206, DISH channel 140, Time Warner channel 27/753 HD).
How can I watch Kentucky basketball vs. Louisville online?
Who is calling the Kentucky basketball game vs. Louisville?
Play-by-play by Dan Shulman, analysis by Jay Bilas, sideline reporting by Maria Taylor.
How can I listen to Kentucky basketball vs. Louisville?
Play-by-play by Tom Leach, analysis by Mike Pratt on Sirius 119, XM 193 and AM-630 (in Lexington).
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) December 21, 2016
No. 6 Kentucky (10-1)
G-De’Aaron Fox (6-3, Fr.): 15.9 ppg, 7.2 apg, 5.3 rpg
G-Malik Monk (6-3, Fr.): 21.9 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.4 rpg
G-Isaiah Briscoe (6-3, So.): 15.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.4 rpg
F-Wenyen Gabriel (6-9, Fr.): 6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg
F-Bam Adebayo (6-10, Fr.): 12.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg
TOP RESERVES – F Derek Willis, 6-9, Sr., 6.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg; C Isaac Humphries, 7-0, So., 3.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg; G Mychal Mulder, 6-4, Sr., 7.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg; G Dominique Hawkins, 6-0, Sr., 3.4 ppg, 2.8 apg, 1.9 rpg.
No. 10 Louisville (10-1)
G-Quentin Snider (6-2, Jr.): 11.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.8 apg
G-Donovan Mitchell (6-3, So.): 11.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.5 spg
F-Deng Adel (6-7, So.): 9.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg
F-Jaylen Johnson (6-9, Jr.): 9.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg
C-Mangok Mathiang (6-10, Sr.): 6.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg
TOP RESERVES – F V.J. King, 6-6, Fr., 7.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg; F Ray Spalding, 6-10, So., 7.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg; F Anas Mahmoud, 7-0, Jr., 5.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg; G Tony Hicks, 6-1, Sr., 3.9 ppg, 1.6 apg.
* Malik Monk encore: What do you do after a 47-point outburst and game-winning 3-pointer against North Carolina? “Just do what was working,” Monk said. “If I’m not on, somebody else will be on, so I just gotta feed them the ball.”
Days later, teammates were still buzzing about what they watched him do against North Carolina, when Monk hit 18 of 28 shots, including 8 of 12 threes.
“It’s insane,” senior guard Dominique Hawkins said. “I’ve been here four years and I’ve never seen anybody shoot the ball and score in as many ways as he did.”
Fellow senior Derek Willis said he can’t recall being on the floor when someone was so on fire – but fellow players know a heater when they see one, probably before the rest of us realize what’s happening.
“It’s one of those weird, sixth-sense things,” Willis said. “Just like an instinct. I feel like everybody collectively, when you get that little feeling about someone, you try to get them the ball a little more.”
Calipari on Tuesday was still harping on the things Monk isn’t doing well. There aren’t many, but shot selection – because he can almost always get one off – is one, as is a lack of free-throw attempts and rebounds.
“He’s gotta get fouled more. This is a game that you can get fouled more, so go, get fouled more,” Calipari said. “If he can do that and can now do what he does on the perimeter and have the mentality of getting to the line, now it becomes, ‘OK, let’s just shore up the rebounding.’ ”
* About those boards: Like the UNC game, where the Cats surprisingly outrebounded one of the nation’s top teams in that category, Louisville presents a challenge on the glass. The Cards rank eighth nationally in offensive rebound percentage and have five players averaging at nearly five boards per game, including 6-7 Adel, 6-9 Johnson, 6-10 Mathiang and 6-10 Spalding.
Kentucky could use some rebounding help from its guards not named Fox. Briscoe and Monk don’t even average six boards per game between them, and Monk managed zero last game, despite a 40-plus-inch vertical. To remedy that, Calipari has recently put Monk with the post players in practice to battle on the boards.
“We’re trying to get him to create new habits,” Calipari said, realizing there’s some give and take as his guards like to get out and run on missed baskets. Where’s the right balance? “If you’re near a man and a shot goes up, you probably wanna check him out. If you’re not near anybody, go ahead and run. But he is near people and his man is going that way and he’s ending up games with no rebounds.
“We chart rebound attempts. He’s got the lowest percentage.”
For the record, Adebayo is apparently nearly 100 percent effort on the boards – on both ends of the floor. Gabriel, too, although he’s just not physically strong enough yet to win some of those battles. Those two certainly can’t do it alone.
“Froom what I’ve seen, (the Cardinals) shoot the ball and those bigs have one job: go get it,” Calipari said. “And if you can’t keep them off the glass, you can’t beat them. You will not beat them.”
* Scouting the Cards’ defense: “They’re long. They’ll mix it up and play different ways,” Calipari said. “They switch, so they could switch pick-and-rolls. They switch one through five sometimes. They’ll play their matchup zone and tilt it to somebody (ahem, Monk) to take away guys. You watch what they did to Purdue; they took away their two guys. … My guess would be they play their 2-2-1 on made goals to slow us down – possibly on missed goals and then get back.”
Louisville ranks No. 1 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing just 87.3 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents. The Cards rank third in blocks per game (7.2) and fifth in opposing field-goal percentage (35.9).
“How would they play Malik? Will they trip? Will they switch?” Calipari wondered. “I imagine they’ll try some different things, run at him with different people to make him think. But they’re a terrific defensive team.”