Kentucky vs. Louisville: Despite Furious Rally, Wildcats Fall Short 80-77

Nick Nafpliotis@@NickNafster79Correspondent IDecember 30, 2012

Dec 29, 2012; Louisville, KY, USA;  Louisville Cardinals forward Chane Behanan (21) shoots against Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) and forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the first half at the KFC Yum! Center.   Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

When Russ Smith stole the ball and scored at the 14:46 mark in the second half, the Cardinals went up 51-34 and looked like they were about to run Kentucky out of the building.

But with Willie Cauley-Stein playing like a man possessed and Kyle Wiltjer finding his three-point stroke, the Wildcats made a furious comeback that (when coupled with Louisville's foul troubles) gave them a very real shot at winning the game.

Unfortunately, it ended up being the little things (like free-throw shooting and ball control), rather than Louisville's talent and experience advantages, that did the Cats in.

The Good

  • Archie Goodwin found his shot in the second half, leading the Wildcats in scoring (22 points on 8-of-15 shooting) and nearly making an improbable Kentucky comeback happen.
  • Kyle Wiltjer got off to a cold start, but as mentioned above, he found his stroke at just the right time. Wiltjer ended up going 4-of-7 from behind the three-point line for 14 points.
  • Ryan Harrow still has a ways to go, but he continued to show flashes of just how good he can be. In addition to scoring 17 points, he also had three assists and no turnovers.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein started to run out of gas near the end, but his defensive presence, rebounding and intensity were big reasons why UK almost stole this one in the last four minutes.

The Bad

  • Kentucky turned the ball over 14 times. Many of those turnovers led to easy, momentum-building dunks for the Cardinals.
  • I know I sound like a broken record, but free-throw shooting was once again a HUGE factor that would have made the difference for Kentucky. The Wildcats were 11-of-23 from behind the line with many of the misses coming during their otherwise excellent comeback in the second half.
  • Alex Poythress was a no-show on offense, scoring only seven points on 2-of-4 shooting...and only making two of his six free throws.
  • The shooting slump continued for Julius Mays, who scored three points on an abysmal 1-of-8 shooting from the floor.

The Weird

  • According to Matt Jones of KentuckySportsRadio.com, this sign was confiscated by YUM! Center employees from a Louisville fan before the game for being in poor taste.
  • As recently as December 18, Rick Pitino was still claiming that it was highly unlikely that Gorgui Dieng would not be ready to play against Kentucky (per Glenn Logan, aseaofblue.com). I think we all saw his "surprise" return coming from a mile away.

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