Cats, Cards could be separated by one shot again

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 30, 2013 

  • Women: Kentucky at Louisville

    When:1 p.m. Sunday

    Records: U of L 7-0; UK 7-0

    Series: UK leads 31-18

    Last meeting: UK won 48-47 last season at Louisville

    TV: WKYT-27.2, FS South

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

    Twitter updates: @jenheraldleader, @markcstory

Janee Thompson figures she has seen the shot "a million times."

And in case Kentucky's sophomore point guard forgets her big three-pointer with 8.5 seconds left that put her Cats ahead of Louisville last season, Thompson's teammates are around to remind her of her epic reaction.

"I was just jumping up and down, going crazy, looking a mess," Thompson recalled of her shot, which helped UK claw back from a 14-point deficit in the second half.

Thompson scored six points in the final minute, and fellow reserve Azia Bishop blocked a last-second shot to preserve the victory.

It might similar heroics to win at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday with the teams ranked higher than they have been in the near 50-year history of the rivalry.

One big play in front of a sold-out crowd could make a huge difference when two teams mirror one another as much as No. 4 Louisville and No. 7 Kentucky.

The Cardinals and the Cats are both 7-0. They are both among the nation's top five scoring teams, with UK averaging 98.1 points a game and Louisville averaging 88.4 points. Both teams are shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.

Both have highly recognizable names but no true star, which is reflected in their balanced scoring.

Louisville has six players averaging 9.3 points or more, with four in double figures. Kentucky also has six players averaging 9.3 or more, including five in double figures.

"They are just so talented," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the Cardinals. "They have a lot of talent and a lot of firepower. It's a real challenge to see if you can stop them, slow them down."

Cards Coach Jeff Walz had similar things to say: "We're a very talented basketball team; they're a talented basketball team."

Or maybe it won't take a heroic effort like Thompson's clutch shot.

Each coach seemed to think that in a game involving two fundamentally sound, veterans teams with quick paces and national title aspirations, it could come down to who can do the little things most consistently.

"The intensity level of the game will be terrific and we'll have to see if we can exceed their level of intensity and exceed their level of play," Mitchell said in a back-to-basics type of way. "We'll see if we can play a little bit harder and see if we can find a way to win."

It's the pressure, not just the intensity, to which Walz will be paying close attention.

"We've got to be able to handle the pressure. I'd like to see the maturity come out for our guards," the Louisville coach said. "I want to see us not get rattled. They're going to go on runs; we're going to go on runs. It's how we handle them."

Each team had won pretty easily on its home court for four straight seasons before last season's 48-47 victory last season at the KFC/Yum! Center on some clutch plays by two reserves.

If Kentucky were to win a third straight, it would be UK's longest winning streak in the series since 1992-94.

Naturally, Louisville, the NCAA Tournament runner-up last season, would like to see Kentucky suffer a similar loss on its Memorial Coliseum floor, where the Cats have topped the Cards 15 straight times since 1979. Louisville's wins in the series in Lexington since then have come at Rupp Arena.

So maybe it will take a heroic last-second effort or maybe it will all come down to fundamentals.

Maybe it will be a little bit of both.

What will be the key, UK's Samarie Walker was asked on Friday.

"Who wants it more," the senior forward said. "Heart."


Sunday

When:1 p.m.

Records: U of L 7-0; UK 7-0

Series: UK leads 31-18

Last meeting: UK won 48-47 last season at Louisville

TV: WKYT-27.2, FS South

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Twitter updates: @jenheraldleader, @markcstory

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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