The No. 9 ranked Kentucky Wildcats marched into the KFC Yum! Center and dominated rival Louisville 95-76 on Wednesday night behind a 30-point performance from senior guard Antonio Reeves.
Kentucky jumped out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back, leading by as many as 27 points. The Wildcats outrebounded the Cardinals 44-33 and forced 19 Louisville turnovers while only committing 9 of their own.
“We played well, we made shots,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I love Antonio, the whole game he talks, ‘I got you Coach, I got you.’ He was terrific.”
Meanwhile, Louisville continued their struggles in Kenny Payne’s first year as head coach. The Cardinals fall to 0-9 against ranked opponents this season.
“We’re building a culture, we’re building a foundation,” Payne said. “I’m looking for fighters and competitors. We have another step to go to be where we need to be.”
First Half Dominance
Kentucky could not be stopped early, storming out to a 29-8 lead midway through the first half. Reeves scored 12 quick points, while Oscar Tshiebwe controlled the paint with 6 points and 7 rebounds in the opening frame.
Louisville struggled mightily on offense, shooting just 26.7% from the field. The Cardinals did not make their first field goal until the 12:48 mark of the first half. Point guard El Ellis tried to keep Louisville close with 10 first half points.
“We got smacked in the mouth early,” Ellis said. “You take punches every day, but it’s how you respond.”
At halftime, Kentucky held a comfortable 45-26 lead. The Cardinals would need a massive second half comeback to make it a competitive game.
Wildcats Cruise in Second Half
Kentucky opened the second half strong as well, pushing their lead to 27 multiple times. The Cardinals never got within 20 points the rest of the way.
Reeves continued his stellar offensive performance after halftime, ending up with a game-high 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting. He scored from all three levels consistently.
“He talks the whole time, he buckets the whole time and he leads the whole time,” Calipari said about Reeves.
Tshiebwe recorded his sixth straight double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Sahvir Wheeler dished out 8 assists for the Wildcats.
For Louisville, Ellis led the way with 18 points, while Kamari Lands added 17 points. The Cardinals shot just 38.3% as a team and were out-rebounded 44-33 in the game.
“We played a great team,” Payne said. “They punched us in the mouth. I’m proud of my guys because we kept fighting.”
Kentucky will take an 8-3 record into the break before SEC play begins. The Wildcats expect to get guard CJ Fredrick back from injury when conference play tips off.
Louisville sits at 2-11 overall and will need major improvements to compete in a tough ACC slate upcoming.
“I’m trying to build a winning culture, that doesn’t happen overnight,” Payne said. “We’re taking punches right now but we’ll get there.”
Calipari and Kentucky feel they are starting to hit their stride after some early season struggles.
“This team is willing to be coached and is playing better,” said Calipari. “We’ve come a long ways from where this team was a month ago.”
The Wildcats and Cardinals will meet again to close the regular season on March 4th in Lexington. Kentucky will look to make it two straight wins over their in-state rival.
Kentucky leads the all-time series 38-17 over Louisville. The Wildcats have now won two straight meetings after Louisville earned a victory in 2021. This year’s dominant 95-76 win was the largest margin of victory for Kentucky since the 2013 season.
The rivalry has featured many iconic moments and close games over the years. Next season marks the 100 year anniversary of the first ever meeting between the schools in 1924. Kentucky holds a significant historical edge, but Louisville has prevented UK from running up the scoreline the past decade.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.