Tyrese Maxey Leads No. 19 Kentucky to 78-70 Upset over No. 3 Louisville in OT

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2019

Louisville's Steven Enoch, right, looks for an opening on Kentucky's Nate Sestina during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
James Crisp/Associated Press

The No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats scored a huge 78-70 overtime home victory over the No. 3 Louisville Cardinals at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, on Saturday.

Kentucky ended its two-game losing streak following losses to Utah and Ohio State to improve to 9-3 on the season, while Louisville lost for just the second time in 2019-20, dropping to 11-2.

The Wildcats have now won three in a row and seven of their past eight meetings with Louisville.

Freshman guard Tyrese Maxey led the way for the Wildcats, as he registered 13 points and four rebounds in the first half alone before finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds.

Kentucky also locked down Louisville defensively, holding the Cardinals to 40.3 percent shooting from the field and 25.9 percent from three, while the Wildcats shot 46.3 percent overall and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc.


Notable Stats

Tyrese Maxey, G, KEN: 27 PTS, 7 REB

Immanuel Quickley, G, KEN: 18 PTS, 3 REB

Nick Richards, F, KEN: 13 PTS, 10 REB

Steven Enoch, C, LOU: 18 PTS, 5 REB

Dwayne Sutton, F, LOU: 14 PTS, 10 REB

Lamarr Kimble, G, LOU: 12 PTS, 4 AST

Jordan Nwora, F, LOU: 8 PTS, 4 REB


Maxey, Richards Come Up Huge in Gutsy Kentucky Win

Kentucky entered Saturday's game as a desperate team after losing consecutive games, and it showed, as the Wildcats led by eight at halftime and as many as 12 in the second half.

The play of Maxey, who scored a career-high 27 points in the win, played a significant role in the Wildcats' hot start, as he was firing on all cylinders from beyond the arc:

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

AND HE DRAINS IT. Tyrese Maxey with a big 3 for @KentuckyMBB https://t.co/bVhsKUetyN

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

Maxey with his second 3-pointer of the day 💪🏻 @KentuckyMBB https://t.co/4oozFChKfx

Nick Coffey of 790 KRD pointed out that everything seemed to be working in Kentucky's favor during the early going:

Nick Coffey @TheCardConnect

Gonna take a phenomenal second half for Louisville for this to end well. Kentucky clearly has forgotten they’ve lost 2 in a row. Everything Kentucky needed to happen, happened. Nwora missing, Richards outworked Enoch. Guard play advantage was evident.

The tide started to shift as the game reached the midway point of the second half, however, with Louisville seizing the momentum.

Louisville went on a 14-3 run at one point to shrink what was once a 12-point deficit to one, and Justin Rowland of Rivals noted that a discrepancy in fouls played a role:

Justin Rowland @RowlandRIVALS

Foul count is 8 against Kentucky, 2 against Louisville this half. Without passing judgment on the majority of those calls, it's pretty fair to say they have completely changed the course of the game.

At around the midway point of the second half, Louisville knocked down threes on consecutive possessions to tie the score and then take the lead:

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

Word that comes to mind: WOW. @LouisvilleMBB https://t.co/P3OsWu9s2o

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

LOUISVILLE TAKES THE LEAD 💯 @LouisvilleMBB https://t.co/o1xFo7BtI7

It would have been easy for Kentucky to wilt at that point with the momentum clearly on the Cardinals' side, but junior forward Nick Richards started to take the game over for Kentucky even with four fouls.

Richards drew a pair of offensive fouls in the second half, much to the approval of Stadium's Jeff Goodman and Chris Bailey of WKYT:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Nick Richards has been damn good here the last few minutes on the defensive end, especially with four fouls.

Chris Bailey @Kentuckyweather

Nick Richards is the most impactful player on the floor today.

With Richards getting the Wildcats back in their groove, they managed to avoid a devastating loss and instead forced overtime.

Perhaps the biggest reason Louisville was unable to win it in regulation was the poor play of star forward Jordan Nwora, who was also out of sync in the Cardinals' only previous loss to Texas Tech:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Louisville’s best player, Jordan Nwora, in loss against Texas Tech and first half vs. Kentucky: 5-24 from field 1-11 from 3

Nwora snapped out of his funk to hit a massive three that gave the Cardinals the lead in overtime, though, and at that point, it looked like Louisville was destined for a huge comeback win.

The Wildcats answered back, however, and after Richards hit two free throws to give Kentucky a two-point lead late in the overtime session, the Cardinals could not net the equalizer, and their comeback was all for naught.


What's Next?

Kentucky will begin SEC play when it hosts the 7-4 Missouri Tigers on Jan. 4 in a game the Wildcats should be heavily favored to win.

Meanwhile, Louisville will open its ACC slate Jan. 4 when it hosts the No. 17 Florida State Seminoles, who are currently 11-2.