Kentucky Blows Out Louisville 90-61 In Rivalry Game
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his Kentucky teammates knew they were capable of a dominant performance. Facing archrival Louisville motivated the No. 16 Wildcats to go out and prove it. Gilgeous-Alexander came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points, including 17 after halftime, PJ Washington added 16 and Kentucky used several runs to blow out rival Louisville 90-61 Friday in the annual showdown for Bluegrass supremacy.
Seeking to regroup after last week's 83-75 loss to unranked UCLA, the Wildcats (10-2) used a 20-6 run to close the first half with a 41-27 lead. Their 24-11 surge over 8:41 in the second helped built a 67-38 lead that eventually reached 32, a gap helped by 57 percent second-half shooting.
Gilgeous-Alexander had a lot to do with that, especially inside.
The freshman guard from Canada shot 6 of 10 after the break to finish 9 of 16 from the field and top his previous scoring best of 15 points against Monmouth on Dec. 9. Playing at times with Washington and Quade Green (13 points), Gilgeous-Alexander registered five second-half layups alone.
"I knew it would come eventually," said Gilgeous-Alexander, who also had five rebounds and four assists in 33 minutes. "I've just been working, and once you work good things will happen. And it happened tonight."
Washington helped earlier with 10 points down the stretch in the first half for a halftime lead that expanded as Kentucky earned its biggest series win since a 76-46 rout in Lexington during the 1999-2000 season.
The Wildcats' mix of man and zone defenses meanwhile held Louisville (10-3) to 35 percent shooting, including 3 of 25 from long range. Most impressive to coach John Calipari was doing that after last weekend's disappointing effort against the Bruins.
"That's as good as we play," the coach said. "We played just about as good as we can play, mainly because we finally competed and battled for an entire game."
Playing its first rivalry game in 16 seasons without coach Rick Pitino, who was fired in October amid a federal bribery investigation of college basketball, the Cardinals faltered after leading for the last time at 19-16.
They were outscored 42-30 in the paint and couldn't hit from behind the arc, with and without being contested, in having their six-game winning streak stopped. Deng Adel had 13 points.
"We had to try and weather the storm there as much as we could to get to halftime," Padgett said, "and that's when they made their run and we just couldn't overcome it at the end of the day."
Louisville: The Cardinals started with promise, making 5 of 10 shots. They closed the first half missing 11 of 12 and went scoreless for the first 3:05 of the second. Foul trouble hurt as Ray Spalding (12 points, 11 rebounds), V.J. King (12 points) and 7-footer Anas Mahmoud all had two in the first half. Their absences created a void that Kentucky exploited. Mahmoud eventually fouled out with 8 minutes left.
"We came out today we didn't execute our game plan," Mahmoud said. "We really didn't do anything we prepared for the last four days. This wasn't indicative of what we did."
Kentucky: The Wildcats were energetic even when shots weren't falling in the first half, allowing them to rally for a lead they didn't relinquish. They out-rebounded Louisville 44-37 and outscored its bench 35-13.
Though it came several days after Christmas, Green delivered on his promise of a win for Kentucky fans.
"We had to give it to them," said Green, who made 3 of 4 from long range and 4 of 6 overall. "We just had to come out and play hard and try to blow them out today, and we did."
Kentucky's 29-point victory margin was the series' third largest behind its 91-57 win in 1947-48 and the 1999 triumph. ... The announced Rupp Arena attendance of 24,228 was the Wildcats' largest this season. ... Louisville allowed its most points to an opponent this season.
Louisville: Hosts Pittsburgh on Tuesday in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Kentucky: Opens Southeastern Conference play Sunday against Georgia, seeking its fourth consecutive regular season title.