Louisville flexes in-state muscle, beats Kentucky

Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith (2) drives to the goal against Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) during the second half at the KFC Yum! Center. Louisville defeated Kentucky 80-77. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

The Kentucky Wildcats knocked Louisville out of the NCAA tournament last season in an epic Final Four battle featuring two basketball-crazed schools. This year, the No. 3-ranked Cardinals are hoping to get to the Final Four yet again.

But first, coach Rick Pitino and his players had some unfinished business against their in-state rivals. Now, after taking care of business in front of 22,810 (a Yum! Center record) and beating No. 23 Kentucky, 80-77, the defending national champions are just hoping to stay within the top 25 nationally.

The final score belies exactly how decisively the tables have turned in only a few months’ time. Kentucky managed to scrape their way back into it after falling behind by as any as 17 points and being dismantled near the rim.

Louisville tallied 44 points in the paint, with high-flying forward Chane Behanan leading the way. He finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, seven boards, three assists and three steals.

Behanan looked fantastic, but it was Russ Smith who once again stole the show. After scoring 30 points in the teams’ rivalry game in last year’s regular season, Smith went off yet again, scoring 21 to lead the way and mirroring Behanan with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The way he see things, he owed it to Kentucky to have another big game against the hated Wildcats.

“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.”

Yes it does, Mr. Smith. It will feel even better if the Cardinals can continue to roll through the regular season and eventually make another run at the Final Four and a national title.

Quote sourced from the Associated Press.

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