There’s no definite answer to what is the biggest rivalry in College Basketball, but when Kentucky plays Louisville, it’s probably as good as it gets. After four consecutive losses to the Wildcats, Chane Behanan and Russ Smith proved to be too much of a difference as one of the best teams in the nation outplayed the athletic and too young team built in Lexington.
There wasn’t the same kind of media festival like in the Final Four last season, obviously, but the tension was in the air, bright and clear inside the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville. Between blue and red, between Calipari and Rick Pitino. Calipari’s Freshman crew did almost make an impressive comeback from trailing 51-34, but at some point, experience and other things besides athleticism come into play.
Archie Goodwin, who led Kentucky with 22 points, was the one who turned the ball over with a bad pass, stolen by Chane Behanan, to seal the win for the Cardinals. John Calipari said he should have called a time out, and didn’t give the right kind of opportunity for his guys to win.
That really didn’t matter for Louisville, who are simply the better basketball team. Deeper, more experienced. Russ Smith, the team’s leading scorer this season (19.8 points per game) led the scoring with 21. Peyton Siva, arguably the most explosive player on the squad, finished with 19 on a good (6-11) shooting day.
Russ Smith looked happier than anyone after the game. This one probably ranks as one of the top five biggest wins of my life. We know where we messed up and we know the mistakes we made, but at the end of the day it’s a win. It’s not a conference win but it’s a great nonconference win. It’s a great win for the city. We’re actually more happy for our fans than for ourselves. I guess revenge is the word, but it feels good beating the team that knocked you out of the Final Four.
Chane Behanan, who has had his problem with Pitino and was even banned from speaking to the media during the fall, seemed to have ‘this isn’t enough’ set of mind, even after his big dunk at the end.
I feel like I could have done better. I took a lot of plays off throughout the game. I feel as though I could have gotten a lot more rebounds than I did. In a game like that you just give it your all to win it. It was my third time playing them. It just feels good to win, not for me but the city too.
And more than anything, the progress of a season was forgotten. This was about revenge, hate, and winning for the fans and the city. Kentucky rules the state, but in Louisville, it’s pretty much a red basis, although not exclusively. It’s even more fun to have bragging rights over people who live across the street from you.
It finally gets the monkey off your back. You can stop thinking about it now and go out and play you don’t have to get heckled by fans everywhere you go. For our fans this is like a national championship game. This feels good for them.