Louisville basketball: Behanan seals Cardinals victory over Cats with a kiss

broberts@herald-leader.comDecember 29, 2012 

  • Wednesday

    Eastern Michigan at Kentucky

    When: 6 p.m.


LOUISVILLE — It took almost the entire 40 minutes for fourth-ranked Louisville to put Kentucky away Saturday.

And it was Chane Behanan who finally sealed it — quite literally — with a kiss.

With the Cardinals leading by four points and 20 seconds on the clock, Behanan intercepted an Archie Goodwin pass, drove all alone to the basket and threw down a one-handed slam to put an exclamation point on U of L's first win over UK in four seasons.

Then, Behanan looked up at the Louisville crowd — and blew a kiss.

"I had to, man," he said with a laugh. "There was just a little shockwave that went through me. I was happy we got this victory. Not just for our team, but for the city itself."

U of L Coach Rick Pitino said he "didn't catch the kiss" from his sophomore forward, who Pitino banned before the season from talking to the media.

The ban — which Behanan said was never explained to him — was lifted Saturday, with one caveat.

"Please tell him to settle down if he gets too carried away," Pitino said.

A settled Behanan worked wonders on the court Saturday. He had 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and made eight of 13 field-goal attempts in a team-high 35 minutes.

It was quite the switch from his first meeting with the Cats.

Behanan came out with too much energy in last year's game in Rupp Arena. He got in foul trouble early and stumbled to a four-point, five-rebound performance before fouling out after just 15 minutes on the court.

"I think I was too hyped," he said of that game. "Being here in Kentucky for two years and hearing about the hype of the Louisville and Kentucky rivalry, I just let the game get to me."

Behanan, a Cincinnati native, finished his high school career with two seasons at Bowling Green, which he led to two consecutive appearances in the 4th Region title game.

The Purples lost both times, but Behanan got plenty of attention. He was named a McDonald's All-American as a senior and was highly recruited by Louisville, Kentucky and several other major programs.

He said the Cats were his second choice, and that made Saturday's win even sweeter.

"We haven't beat 'em in four years," he said. "I know I lost to them in the Final Four last year, and when we went to Kentucky."

He used that first game in Rupp as a learning experience. This time, he was more composed, and it showed from the beginning.

Behanan scored Louisville's first points with a basket over Willie Cauley-Stein. He added six more points during a 13-2 Louisville run after UK had jumped out to a six-point lead.

By halftime, he had 11 points and five rebounds. And no fouls.

"I was more patient," he said. "Just trying not to let the crowd get in me. I was hyped, but I wasn't as hyped as I was (in Rupp). I was calm-hype. What I call my Kobe Zone."

Being on his home court probably didn't hurt. Behanan acknowledged being shaken by the Rupp crowd last year. As a seasoned sophomore playing in front of his own fans, he fed off the energy.

Late in the first half, Behanan picked off an errant UK pass and found himself with a clear path to the basket and plenty of time to think about it. Instead of a simple slam, he took the ball with both hands and did something resembling a reverse windmill.

The Yum Center exploded.

But it almost rimmed out, and Pitino wasn't pleased.

"I don't know. I was in the game," Behanan said. "Coach kind of got on me about it. He said, 'Chane, just do a regular dunk.'

"I just told him, 'C'mon, Coach. We're out here playing, having fun.' That's what the game's all about."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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