Louisville, Kentucky debate consequences of a tightly called game

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 27, 2014 

Kentucky Wildcats forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) as the University of Kentucky men's basketball team practiced in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, In., Thursday, March 27, 2014. UK plays Louisville tomorrow night in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

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  • Kentucky-Louisville series

    Kentucky leads 31-15

    Date Winner Score Location

    Feb 15, 1913 Kentucky 34-10 Lexington

    Feb. 7, 1914 Kentucky 22-17 Lexington

    Mar. 3, 1914 Kentucky 26-13 Louisville

    Jan. 23, 1915 Kentucky 18-14 Lexington

    Feb. 27, 1915 Louisville 26-15 Louisville

    Feb. 12, 1916 Louisville 28-22 Lexington

    Feb. 22, 1916 Kentucky 32-24 Louisville

    Jan. 17, 1922 Kentucky 38-14 Louisville

    Jan. 21, 1922 Kentucky 29-22 Lexington

    Mar. 27, 1948 Kentucky 91-57 New York (Olympic Trials)

    Mar. 20, 1951 Kentucky 79-68Raleigh, N.C. (NCAA first round)

    Mar. 13, 1959 Louisville 76-61Evanston, Ill. (NCAA first round)

    Mar. 26, 1983 Louisville80-68 (OT)Knoxville (NCAA Elite Eight)

    Nov. 26, 1983 Kentucky 65-44 Lexington

    Mar. 22, 1984 Kentucky 72-67Lexington (NCAA Sweet 16)

    Dec. 15, 1984 Louisville 71-64 Louisville

    Dec. 28, 1985 Kentucky 69-64 Lexington

    Dec. 27, 1986 Kentucky 85-51 Louisville

    Dec. 12, 1987 Kentucky 76-75 Lexington

    Dec. 31, 1988 Louisville 97-75 Louisville

    Dec. 30, 1989 Louisville 86-79 Lexington

    Dec. 29, 1990 Kentucky 93-85 Louisville

    Dec. 28, 1991 Kentucky103-89Lexington

    Dec. 12, 1992 Kentucky 88-68 Louisville

    Nov. 27, 1993 Kentucky 78-70 Lexington

    Jan. 1, 1995 Louisville 88-86 Louisville

    Dec. 23, 1995 Kentucky 89-66 Lexington

    Dec. 31, 1996 Kentucky 74-54 Louisville

    Dec. 27, 1997 Louisville 79-76 Lexington

    Dec. 26, 1998 Louisville 83-74 Louisville

    Dec. 18, 1999 Kentucky 76-46 Lexington

    Jan. 2, 2001 Kentucky 64-62 Louisville

    Dec. 29, 2001 Kentucky 82-62 Lexington

    Dec. 28, 2002 Louisville 81-63 Louisville

    Dec. 27, 2003 Louisville 65-56 Lexington

    Dec. 18, 2004 Kentucky 60-58 Louisville

    Dec. 17, 2005 Kentucky 73-61 Lexington

    Dec. 16, 2006 Kentucky 61-49 Louisville

    Jan. 5, 2008 Louisville 89-75 Lexington

    Jan. 4, 2009 Louisville 74-71 Louisville

    Jan. 2, 2010 Kentucky 71-62 Lexington

    Dec. 31, 2010 Kentucky 78-63 Louisville

    Dec. 31, 2011 Kentucky 69-62 Lexington

    Mar. 31, 2012 Kentucky 69-61New Orleans (NCAA Final Four)

    Dec. 29, 2012 Louisville 80-77 Louisville

    Dec. 28, 2013 Kentucky 73-66 Lexington

  • What: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal | When: About 9:45 p.m. Friday | Where: Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis | TV: CBS-27 | Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

    Records: No. 8 seed UK 26-10, No. 4 seed Louisville 31-5 | Series: UK leads 31-15 | Last meeting: UK won 73-66 on Dec. 28, 2013, in Rupp Arena | At stake: Winner plays Tennessee or Michigan on Sunday

INDIANAPOLIS — The most important people in the Kentucky-Louisville Sweet 16 game Friday night might not be wearing blue or red. They might be wearing black and white.

The referees loom large. A loosely called game in which, as basketball parlance terms it, they let 'em play would seem to favor Louisville. Fewer foul calls gives U of L's pressure defense sharper teeth and lessens the number of free throws resulting from Kentucky's drive-drive-drive offense.

Conversely, more foul calls tame Louisville's press and enable Kentucky to show again why it leads the nation with an average of 29.5 free-throw attempts per game.

In the NCAA Tournament, coaches and players don't learn what referees are working the game until an hour before tip-off. Not to be caught by surprise, Kentucky has worked all week preparing guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, plus James Young for a physical game in which relatively few fouls are called.

"We have EJ (Floreal) and Jarrod (Polson) and Dominique (Hawkins) fouling on every play," Willie Cauley-Stein said Thursday. "Like every time the twins are dribbling or James is dribbling, they're grabbing arms and jerseys. Guys are throwing their bodies at each other and grabbing at each other. That's how (Louisville) plays.

"Regardless of how the refs call it, you've got to prepare for the worst."

UK Coach John Calipari gave the reserve guards "a free rein to foul as much as we can" in practice, Polson said.

Floreal noted how UK prepared in a similar way for the regular-season games against Louisville, Michigan State and North Carolina. Calipari instructed the reserves to "wreak havoc" and "create chaos," he said.

Calipari served as referee. How often did he call a foul? "Very rarely," Floreal said.

Louisville guard Luke Hancock noted a basketball truism: It's important to adjust to the style of officiating early in the game. He suggested a tightly called game, which would adhere to the NCAA's stated intention this season of creating more scoring by reducing physical play, might help the Cardinals. At the least, it potentially would create opportunities for both teams.

"If you can't put your hands on (the offensive player), Russ Smith is going to be the hardest person in the country to guard," he said of the Cards' leading scorer. "It works both ways. And then our pressure to speed you up isn't always trapping and pushing you and stuff like that. We just want to speed the game up and wear people out."

But, generally, it's believed more fouls favor Kentucky and fewer Louisville.

"If they let Louisville press and don't call fouls, Kentucky's going to be in bad shape," said Hugh Durham, the only coach to lead two schools (Georgia and Florida State) to their only Final Four appearances. "Because they'll probably be turning it over and Louisville is going to get open-court baskets and they'll be back in the press again.

"If the referees have a happy whistle, that means, hell, it could be a lot of players on the bench for Louisville."

John Adams, national coordinator of officials, declined an interview request.

If Louisville tries to set a physical tone, it will be nothing new for Kentucky.

"It's just natural," Andrew Harrison said. "We're young. We don't have a lot of experience. The first thing (opponents) try to do is beat somebody up."

Kentucky's not exactly a 90-pound weakling. The Harrison twins and Young are all listed at 6-foot-6 and about 215 pounds. Each is a handful to contain and prevent from getting into the lane, hence UK's reliance on drive-drive-drive.

"I don't want to say it's half our offense," Cauley-Stein said, "but it's a big part of what we try to do."

Louisville is aware. "It's more a smash-mouth style of basketball," Smith said.

The so-called "new rules" make UK's drive-drive-drive even more difficult to stop. That became apparent again in last weekend's thrilling third-round victory over No. 1 seed Wichita State. Free-throw shooting may not be exciting, but Kentucky beat the Shockers thanks, in part, to 14-of-18 free-throwing in the final 11:38.

"Those new rules came into effect," Wichita State guard Ron Baker said. "They were lowering their head. They got Fred (VanVleet) in foul trouble (and) started going at him a little bit. Their goal is to get to the rim."

When asked what defenses could do to counter the drive-drive-drive, Baker said, "With the new rules, there's not a whole lot you can do. As far as the defender, the best thing to do is to get out of the way and hope for some help."

Players for both teams said they could adjust to however the referees call the game.

"If the refs don't call fouls, it'll be that much tougher," Polson said. "That's the big thing we've been talking about: toughness."

Guard Chris Jones, who is listed at 5-10 and 175 pounds, said much the same for Louisville.

"If we can play, I think we'll win," he said. "But if they call it tight, it'll be a battle."

Smith, a wise man who helped lead Louisville to last year's national championship, advised flexibility and resilience.

"I've been part of a lot of these games," he said. "There's a lot of different ways the officiating went, and it determined a lot of outcomes.

"We'll see tomorrow."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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