The last chance to hand Kentucky a loss in nonconference play ended rather early as their remained undefeated with a 58-50 win at Louisville, handing the Cardinals their first loss of the season, getting a big push off the bench from Tyler Ulis and looking unbeatable going into SEC play.
Their Bluegrass showdown in Louisville was going to be the final test because of it being a true road game against an undefeated opponent which is better than anything Kentucky are about to face in their conference for the next three months. While Louisville made thing difficult in the first half with their pressure on all the floor and the ability of Montrezl Harrell to change shots, the depth of the Wildcats along with some very favorable refereeing got them past this hurdle.
It came down to Ulis scoring 14 points making the difference. Kentucky’s size did help in the second half when they started making smart traps in the paint and took Louisville out of the game for long stretches, but it was their ability to turn to their bench after a rough showing for most of their starters (including 3-of-16 for the Harrison twins) that decided the game for them. Louisville managed to get only 3 points from their bench players.
When it came down to the finish, Kentucky outplayed Louisville in almost every category. They outscored them in the paint (24-16), allowed just one field goal off an assist, and outscored them on points off of turnovers and offensive rebounds. Kentucky have more than one way of beating you, but Louisville can only win these games through “ugly” basketball. If Kentucky do even that better than them, it wasn’t going to end well for the Cardinals anyway.
This was the first time this season Kentucky won by a single digit margin. It still doesn’t make them look any more vulnerable or likely to lose anytime soon.