The Louisville Cardinals held off a late surge from Kentucky to win 62-59 in this season’s Battle of the Bluegrass. The Cards are now 6-1 on the year. Kentucky is 1-6, its worst start in 109 years. Louisville picked up its first win against their in state rival since December of 2016.
Carlik Jones led Louisville with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. David Johnson scored 17 points with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Jae’Lyn Withers added 8 points and 9 rebounds. Louisville shot 42.3 percent from the field and 30.0 (6-20) from three-point range.
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) December 26, 2020
For Kentucky, Davion Mintz led the way with 19 points, on 4-6 from three, with 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Brandon Boston Jr. had 11 points and 7 rebounds. Jacob Toppin added 10 points and 6 boards. The Cats shot 34.5 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three.
It was a back and forth first half with neither team leading by more than three points. Louisville went into the break with a narrow 28-27 lead. Kentucky scored 5 quick points out of the half to go up 32-28. A David Johnson layup with 13:44 on the clock made it 35-34 Louisville and the Cats would not lead regain the lead again. Louisville stretched it out to 50-43 just before the under-8 timeout, its largest lead of the game. UK roared back with a few timely shots from Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston Jr. With the game tied at 59 with under a minute to play, Louisville got two stops and made their free throws to hang on for a 3-point win at home.
Kentucky has been an elite defensive team all season and Louisville struggled to get things going for some long stretches. Carlik Jones really put the team on his back in the second half when no one else could get a bucket. Guard play was the difference down the stretch with both Jones and Johnson for Louisville. Despite Mintz’s three-point barrage, he did not get any shots in the final minutes. Devin Askew was a non-factor for the majority of the game. Louisville was dominated on the boards, but Kentucky was unable to make them pay enough for it. Louisville’s game plan defensively was to make UK make their jump shots. Excluding a couple specific segments, that strategy largely worked.
I said it before the game. The margin of victory would not matter here, Louisville just needed to win. Kentucky’s record is terrible, but this is a rivalry game that almost always stays in the single digits. Good on Louisville for hanging on in the end.
This is not a season defining win by any means. The Cards were expected to win and did just that. There is something to be said about the mental toughness it took to hold on, though. This is a Louisville program that has been thoroughly dominated in this rivalry for the past decade. All of the pressure was to them to not screw this one up.
Enjoy it, Cardinal fans. Until next year…
Louisville is back on the road next Saturday for a matchup with Boston College at noon ET.