LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Texas-Kansas on Feb. 8 should live up to the hype as the most anticipated game of the season.
Let’s hope so.
Louisville at Kentucky was supposed to be 1A to Texas-Kansas, but the game was hardly memorable beyond the first 45 seconds. Kentucky’s 71-62 victory Saturday at Rupp Arena had its moments of angst, anger and exhilaration -- because the crowd generated so much enthusiasm. But there was something missing -- like quality play, for one -- for most of the afternoon.
The game started with jawing from Edgar Sosa and Eric Bledsoe, a scrum with DeMarcus Cousins that involved an elbow that could have been deemed flagrant but wasn’t, and technical fouls for Cousins, Reginald Delk and Jared Swopshire.
But the chippy play subsided and when it was time to actually attempt to put the ball in the basket in the first half, both teams were off, with Louisville 1-of-20 at one point. Kentucky struggled as well, shooting just 30 percent.
Louisville forced tempo, and while John Wall was once again nursing cramps that kept him out of the game, the Wildcats were out of sync. Louisville made quite a comeback to take a one-point lead at 42-41 with just under 10 to play.
The Wildcats had a bit more stamina and size with Cousins and Patrick Patterson too tough to handle inside. Wall made some cameos getting to the basket, but on the whole this wasn’t his best effort.
The game was hyped as Rick Pitino’s return to Kentucky for the first time since admitting he was being extorted by a woman he had had an affair with six years earlier. But the crowd was well-behaved and only booed Pitino upon his entrance.
The game lasted into a third hour and was painfully slow at times. What was learned is that Louisville will be a pest in the Big East, but not a title contender. Meanwhile, Kentucky could be extremely vulnerable to a zone and careless play on the road.
This was hardly the crowning Kentucky thought it was going to be heading into next week's SEC opener. The Wildcats are still a national title contender, but there is still much to be done for this largely inexperienced squad.