Bluegrass blowout: Pitino evens score with UK

Vitale's Best of the Week: Dec. 22

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Louisville, Pitino make statement vs. 'Cats


Rick Pitino

The Louisville-Kentucky rivalry is one of the most bitter in college basketball. To me, it ranks up there with Duke-North Carolina and Indiana-Purdue. It was truly intense in Freedom Hall on Saturday, and Louisville came back from an early 11-point deficit to prevail 81-63.

Coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals really responded after being outrebounded 15-1 early on. The 18-point win was a momentum builder for the Cardinal program. Louisville will be dangerous come Conference USA time. Beating a rival like Kentucky, and doing it in dominating fashion after a slow start, is truly impressive.

In a year in which diaper dandies have excelled week in and week out, another impact freshman came through. Daniel Horton came to the Midwest from the state of Texas, and he has had an up-and-down campaign.

But Horton came through big-time at Pauley Pavilion, helping the Wolverines to an upset victory over UCLA. He hit 7-of-10 trifectas, finishing with 24 big points in the shocker. It marked Michigan's fifth straight win after an 0-6 start.

Amaker took all kinds of heat early on, with fans asking whether he could really coach. His Wolverines have responded after the 0-6 start with five straight wins.

Michigan started the week with an 85-57 win over Eastern Michigan and followed with a big victory at Pauley Pavilion against a UCLA team that desperately needed a win. The Wolverines and Amaker were never rattled after the poor start. LaVell Blanchard, Bernard Robinson Jr. and Horton have picked it up a notch and kept it together.

This program will eventually return to legitimate contender status in the Big Ten under Amaker. He has already signed outstanding recruits for the future, and Michigan's athletic and academic reputation are outstanding.

I know that Jawad Williams was out with a virus, Melvin Scott was on the sidelines due to a suspension and Sean May suffered a broken foot during the game. Still, the Tar Heels should not lose to a team that had a three-game losing streak against Fairfield, Rhode Island and Akron (not to take away from the Gaels).

Coach Jeff Ruland's team outplayed the Tar Heels, who won the Preseason NIT on the same court at Madison Square Garden, beating Kansas and Stanford. Ruland was the center on Iona's team the last time it beat a top-25 club, No. 2 Louisville back in 1980 -- when Jimmy Valvano was the coach of the Gaels. Ruland had 31 points and 21 rebounds in that game.

There were a number of scintillating performances all week long. The winner of this week's award is a juco transfer whose arrival has given Texas Tech an important inside player.

Robert Tomaszek, a 6-foot-9, 240-pounder from Eastern Wyoming College, was sensational in a 99-89 overtime win at Minnesota. Williams Arena is not an easy place to compete in for opposing players, yet Tomaszek came through with 28 points (11-of-15 field goals) and 16 rebounds. He responded when every point and rebound really counted in a hard-fought victory for Robert Montgomery Knight's Red Raiders.

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