In a game that most people will first talk about the 52 fouls called and 70 free throws attempted, a more telling stat may be the rebounding margin. UK (13-1) had 57 rebounds (20 offensive) and UofL (12-2) had 31 rebounds. Because of those 20 offensive rebounds, Kentucky had 20 second chance points, and only 6 for UofL. It is hard to win many games when you are dominated on the glass like that, especially giving up so many second chances.
The biggest mismatch from an individual standpoint was the matchup between Kyle Kuric and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kuric seemed to disappear with having a long athletic defender guarding him. Whoever guarded him at any point would never leave him open in his corner. When he cut off screens, he would be jammed everytime so he had to work much harder to try and get open. Without getting himself open, Kuric was essentially taken out of the game, and it was usually a 4 on 4 matchup when UofL had the ball. Kuric ended up with 2 points on only 1 of 4 shooting, 2 rebounds, and 4 fouls.
On the other end of that matchup, UK’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist established himself as possibly the Wildcats’ best overall player. MKG ended up with 24 points and 19 rebounds, just an amazing stat line for anyone in this series, especially a freshman. He hit 3s, got dunks, hit free throws, and got offense rebounds for putbacks. The kid simply did it all.
If there was one player that showed no fear of the Cats or of playing in Rupp, it was Russ Smith. Of the 62 points that UofL scored, Russ led the way with 30, off the bench. He also had 5 rebounds and 3 steals. When UK went up 31-15 in the first half, it was the hustle of Russ Smith and Chris Smith that brought UofL back to within 3 at the half. They never gave up, and they put the Cards in position to make it a game again.
Another big part of UK winning this one was Anthony Davis. He picked up 2 early fouls in the game, and sat for most of the first half. This would put Eloy Vargas or Kyle Wiltjer on Gorgui Dieng, but the Cards never really looked to get him the ball in those situations to take advantage. When Davis came back in for the 2nd half, he made up for the time he missed and finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks. The big man was also solid at the free throw line, shooting 12-13.
To say the the starting guards for UofL struggled shooting the ball would be an understatement. Peyton Siva and Chris Smith combined to shoot 4-23. Siva also added 3 turnovers and a couple of drives to the basket where Davis clearly altered his shot, either by blocking him or making him spin in the air and shoot it backwards.
The Cards need to quickly forget about this one, as now they turn to Big East play for the rest of the season. Their next game is Tuesday at St. John’s at 7:00 in Madison Square Garden.
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