John Calipari on UK’s Win Over Louisville: ‘We Grew Up Today’ [VIDEO]
11:01. That's how much time was left in the second half when UK freshman Julius Randle, plagued by cramps, left the game never to return.
He'd been the star of the first half, putting up 17 points while shooting a blistering 87.5%. But then, just before the midway point of the second half, he was heading to the locker room, cramping to beat the band. After playing all 20 minutes of the first half and one of the second, Randle wouldn't play in this game again.
I couldn't help but wonder if Big Blue Nation had visions of Nerlens Noels dancing in their heads. If you'll recall, when Noel went down with that torn ACL during the Florida game last season, the 'Cats not only went on to lose that game (to be fair, it looked like that was going to happen anyway) but they only won five of the remaining nine games they played.
Would this team fold like a cheap accordion without the player that had done so much for them early on? The answer, provided in part by the Harrison twins and James Young, was a resounding NO!
Andrew Harrison managed to confound what little size Louisville has to offer in Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell and drove to the basket on a number of occasions, finishing with 18 points. Aaron Harrison added 10 points while James Young poured in another 18 (he also collected 10 rebounds) as the 'Cats went on to win it 73-66.
As a fan of both teams (yes, we DO exist), I was disappointed to see an experienced team like Louisville only essentially have two guys show up--Chris Jones with 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists and Russ Smith with 19 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists. Rick Pitino looked furious almost the entire game. It was a very surprising performance. Pitino's a brilliant coach. He's got smart, veteran players. I have no doubt they figure this out.
As for Kentucky, it now has the signature win that has eluded this team since it won the national title in 2012 against Kansas. But resting on their laurels is something these young Wildcats cannot afford to do. They have a very long break before conference play begins at Rupp Arena against Mississippi State. That game on January 8th means UK won't play again for 11 days. That's a long time. It could be easy to come out sluggish against the Bulldogs after that much time off.
My guess is that John Calipari will be showing video of this game to these players every single day until that time. This was Kentucky's best defensive and TEAM performance of the season. Calipari will stress that it should not be the last one.