John Clay's notes: Cats-Cards shapes up as defensive battle

jclay@herald-leader.comDecember 26, 2012 

Louisville center Gorgui Dieng

Louisville center Gorgui Dieng


Some random Kentucky-Louisville notes:

 This is the first time since the UK-U of L series was renewed in 1983-84 that Louisville enters the game in the AP top five, while Kentucky is unranked.

 According to stats guru Ken Pomeroy, Louisville is the best defensive team in the nation, limiting opponents to 80.4 points per every 100 possessions.

 Pomeroy's numbers put UK as the nation's eighth-best defensive team, holding opponents to 85.7 points per 100 possessions.

 Some have been known to knock Rick Pitino's pre-conference schedule. Not this season. Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings have Louisville facing the nation's 100th-toughest schedule so far. He has Kentucky at No. 275.

 Both teams lost to Duke. Kentucky lost to the Blue Devils 75-68 in Atlanta on Nov. 13. Eleven days later, Louisville lost to the Blue Devils 76-71 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas.

 Kentucky shot 49 percent against Duke. Louisville shot 45.5. Duke shot 43.6 against Louisville and 45.6 against Kentucky.

 Louisville center Gorgui Dieng did not play against Duke because of a broken wrist.

 Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow did not play against Duke because of illness.

 No matter what Pitino says, I'll be surprised if Dieng is not on the court Saturday against Kentucky.

 This note from WDRB's Rick Bozich: In the four UK-U of L meetings since John Calipari came to Kentucky, Louisville has led in the second half for a grand total of 19 seconds. That was on Jan. 2, 2010.

 In last year's regular-season game in Rupp Arena, Louisville tied the score at 40 in the second half. Kentucky responded with a 7-0 run and won 69-62.

 In last season's Final Four game in New Orleans, Louisville tied the score at 49 with 9:11 remaining in the game. Kentucky responded with an 11-2 run, highlighted by Darius Miller hitting a three-pointer as a trailer on a fast break, which earned him a hug from Calipari.

 Remember a couple of years ago, when some said Pitino would never beat Calipari at UK? Now it looks like Louisville could be as much as 14-point favorite on Saturday.

 All those extremely early NBA pre-draft prognostications putting Shabazz Muhammad or Cody Zeller or Nerlens Noel as the No. 1 pick next June might end up giving way to UNLV's Anthony Bennett being the first overall pick.

 Kentucky is playing excellent free-throw defense. Its last two opponents have made just 27 of 50 free throws (54 percent). Lipscomb was 13 of 24 from the foul line for 54.2 percent last Saturday. Marshall was even worse, making just 14 of 26 for 53.8 percent.

 Watch out for Louisville's Wayne Blackshear. The sophomore is starting to come into his own. He's made 14 of 25 shots, including seven of 14 three-pointers, and scored 35 points in his last two games. Before that, he was averaging 8.5 points per game.

 Kentucky's Julius Mays is in a shooting slump. The senior missed six of his seven shots and is now 2-for-15 in his last two games. Mays has missed all nine of his three-point shots in the last two games and is 1-for-13 in his last three.

 But Mays does not turn the ball over. He has nine assists and zero turnovers over 93 minutes in his last three games

 Kentucky's last five opponents have registered more turnovers than assists. Marshall had just six assists and turned it over 17 times Saturday. The last team to have a plus assist-to-turnover margin against the Cats was Notre Dame at +2 (13/11).

Kentucky's Archie Goodwin likes to shoot the basketball. Louisville's Russ Smith loves to shoot the basketball. Goodwin is averaging one field-goal attempt every 2.9 minutes on the floor, or an average of 13.9 field-goal attempts per 40 minutes. Smith is averaging a shot every 1.9 minutes on the floor, or an average of 21.5 shots per every 40 minutes.

John Clay: 859-231-3226. E-mail: Blog: Twitter: @johnclayiv.

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