The Battle for the Bluegrass belonged to the No. 18-ranked Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Behind a dominating performance in the paint, the Wildcats knocked off the No. 6 Louisville Cardinals, 73-66.
In the first half, Julius Randle was dominant, scoring 17 points on 7-of-8 from the field. He battled leg cramps in the second half, but his teammates provided plenty of support.
Fellow freshman James Young continues to demonstrate his all-around skills. He made several key passes and hustle plays in a pivotal second-half stretch that won the game for Kentucky. He finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Louisville senior Russ Smith and junior Chris Jones were the lone bright spots for the Cardinals on offense. Smith had 19 points, and Jones finished with 18.
Here's a closer look at the key points in the game.
Randle Untouchable Early
With the way the big freshman played in the first 20 minutes, there's no telling what the final score would have been had cramps not knocked him out for most of the second half.
His play close to the basket not only resulted in 17 points, he also helped to get most of the Cardinals frontcourt in foul trouble early.
This game was far from a shootout. Both Louisville and Kentucky struggled from the free-throw line and the field. They made a combined 22.5 percent of their shots from three-point range. The Wildcats won despite making just 53.3 percent of their free throws. Louisville converted only about 64 percent of its attempts from the line.
This was a grinding, physical and hard-fought battle. Needless to say, neither team can expect to go far in March without better overall shooting performances.
Wildcats Dominate the Boards
The key to the game was the battle on the boards. Even with leading rebounder Randle on the bench for more than half the game, Kentucky still used its immense size advantage to enjoy a 44-36 edge on the glass.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 10 rebounds to join Young in double figures.
Russ Smith, Louisville: B-
"Russdiculous" had his moments, like this amazing slam over Randle in the first half.
But he missed a boatload of free throws late that cost his team. He was 5-of-10 from the stripe and had issues finishing against Kentucky's size close to the basket. He was forced to drive most of the game, as he missed all five of his three-point attempts.
Julius Randle, Kentucky: B
Randle almost deserves an incomplete, but he was such a factor in the first half that you have to recognize his limited work.
He proved he could be big yet again in a marquee matchup, but it would have been nice to see him play in the second half.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky: B-
Though he was a dreadful 6-of-12 from the free-throw line, Harrison did have 18 points in the game. For the most part, he played under control, took good shots and created for his teammates in the second half.
He added two assists in the game to go with his career-high in points.
James Young, Kentucky: A-
Young didn't shoot the ball well (5-of-17), but his instincts, effort and feel for the game are most impressive. He's the glue guy for the Wildcats and will ultimately help determine just how far they advance come March.
His double-double was huge in this one.
Chris Jones, Louisville: B-
Jones was just too small and inaccurate from the outside to be effective on Saturday. He made just three of nine attempts from three-point range and couldn't continue the pace he set in the first half. All but three of his 18 points came in the first 20 minutes of the game.
In his defense, the Cardinals bigs couldn't amount any offense to create space for him to work.
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