Louisville basketball wins 2020 Battle of the Bluegrass

Carlik Jones #1 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Carlik Jones #1 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Louisville basketball squeaked out a difficult victory in one of college basketball’s best rivalries

It was sloppy. It was gross. It was glorious. Louisville took home the win against Kentucky for the first time since 2016.

62. 438. Final. 59. 528

A game that includes referee Ted Valentine always seems to feel like watching paint dry would be a much more enthusiastic activity than watching the game itself.

Louisville improved to 6-1 while the win dropped the Wildcats to a woeful 1-6 on the year.

Of note, Charles Minlend reportedly went through warmups for the Cardinals prior to the game but did not play.

That likely means Minlend is very close to game action as Louisville works to get fully healthy for the first time all season.

The Cardinals led for most of the second half as they worked to hold off the very talented Wildcats.

It was an overwhelming feeling of wanting to shield your eyes down the stretch as the Cards nearly coughed up the game in large part due to a series of three possessions in a row where Louisville turned the ball over.

A shot clock clock violation with 2:03 remaining was the start after a Carlik Jones pull-up jumper failed to hit the rim. Then, a Jae’lyn Withers inopportune travel was a failed chance to give the team a go-ahead bucket to take back control. And, again, one possession later, Dre Davis stepped on the baseline while attempting to make a back-cut to the basket.

Another turnover.

Luckily, Louisville’s defense stood strong through the offensive difficulties as they held Kentucky to three points in the final three minutes of action.

Dre Davis was the first Card to have a chance at icing the game as he hit 1-of-2 free throws and Carlik Jones made both down the stretch to put the game away.

The Wildcats did have a chance, as time expired, to hit a three. But a shot by Brandon Boston Jr. was off the mark.

Louisville has not played pretty basketball recently

Fans should feel comfortable celebrating this win whether it was ugly or not. But it is important to mention that Louisville has really struggled to get their offense going after resuming games following a bout with Covid within the program. The matchup against Kentucky was no different.

Nobody scored in double figures outside of Jones (20) and David Johnson (17) in this game. It was expected the Cards would have to lean on these two in this game, but the extent to which that happened was inexcusable. The other six players that received minutes in this game scored 25 total points on 10-for-26 shooting.

Primarily, the disappearance of Sam Williamson in this matchup was alarming to say the least.

Right now, they are finding ways to win basketball games. But how long can that last with the level of play being put forth by the team?

After all, Kentucky is now just a 1-6 basketball team. That alone, on paper, will not move the needle for Louisville as a resumé builder come tournament time.

Some national experts took notice of Louisville’s sloppy play including Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

Just by level of play put forth on the court in this one, most would likely agree with Goodman’s bit of hyperbole.

In Louisville’s first four games, they looked to have been one of the most polished teams in the country by the ways they combined offensive and defensive prowess. Now, that seems to have unfortunately unraveled some.

A win is a win in any rivalry

Rivalry games can be chippy and not-so-pretty for viewing pleasure despite the amount of hype usually behind them no matter how good or bad the teams’ records may be.

The heat of rivalry can lead to close games and just overly anticipating the matchup by players involved.

Kentucky played the same exact way they have played all year which is sloppy and young looking. They are a tough out competing against them on the glass and in the paint offensively with their long shot blockers. But, they are clearly offensively challenged (especially from three-point range).

Louisville struggled shooting the ball as well. It is not an area of strength for the team. But the defense and the downhill abilities of Johnson and Jones on offense spearheaded the win.

For one year, the Cardinals will have the bragging rights they have been craving for four years.

Kentucky is the worst they have been in over 100 years of basketball.

Louisville is 6-1 heading into full-time ACC play. In January we will really see what the team is fully made of.