Kentucky couldn’t keep up.
Not with No. 3 Louisville.
Not with star guard Asia Durr.
The end result was an 87-63 Cardinals victory behind 32 points from the junior on Sunday in front of 5,871 in Memorial Coliseum.
“Once it gets in her hands and she goes up, I just want to run back down, but I know I’ll get in trouble if I did that,” smiled Myisha Hines-Allen, who had 18 points and nine rebounds in the win. “I just have so much confidence in her.
“Everyone is seeing what she’s capable of doing. I think she’s the best player in college basketball.”
And Louisville (13-0) is proving to be one of the best teams, grabbing command of the game in the second quarter and never looking back to win its first game in Memorial Coliseum since 1979 and its first game in Lexington in a decade.
“They really have a great team,” said UK’s Matthew Mitchell, whose team lost its third straight game. “We let it get away there in the last 12-13 minutes of the first half.
“I thought end of the first quarter was bad and obviously the second quarter, we didn’t do what we need to do to hang in there.”
The Cardinals rushed out to a 14-6 lead early behind seven points from Durr before UK was able to cut the lead to three points, 18-15, with 1:37 to go in the opening quarter.
But that’s when the game started to get away from Kentucky, which was outscored 29-10 to close out the first half after it had pulled within those three points.
“Defensively right now, we’re not operating at a very high level. So that’s my job, I have to get that corrected,” said Mitchell, whose team allowed Louisville to shoot 48.5 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from three-point range on Sunday.
Durr had 16 points in the first half. She was one of five Louisville players in double figures in the victory. The Cardinals had two players finish with double-doubles with 11 points and 10 rebounds from Dana Evans and then 10 points and 10 rebounds from Sam Fuehring.
“She was big tonight,” said Walz, whose team outrebounded UK 36-25 and got 20 second-chance points compared to just eight for the Cats. “The way she offensive rebounded really set the tone for us.”
The Cards were just one Hines-Allen rebound and two Arica Carter assists from having four different players with double-doubles. Carter had 11 points in the victory.
“Having balance and depth is something we haven’t had this much of it in the past,” Walz said. “It makes life a lot easier for (Durr) when players can step up and knock down open shots.”
Few Kentucky (8-4) shots were open and the Cats’ offense struggled in the first half, when they shot just 34.6 percent compared to the 56.5 percent they shot in the second half.
“What we have to learn from is just when teams go on runs, we can’t just panic and catch up right then and there,” said Maci Morris, who led Kentucky with 16 points and five rebounds.
Tatyana Wyatt added 10 points, followed by nine points from Jaida Roper.
Point guard Taylor Murray finished with eight points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals in the loss, UK’s second in a row to the Cardinals, who had lost five consecutive in the series before last season.
To get this victory, especially in Lexington where the Cardinals are 5-22 all-time in the series, meant something, Hines-Allen said.
“It’s a big one,” she said. “You know what it means to Kentucky and you know what it means back home. So it’s just good we were able to get that win.”
Next up for Kentucky is No. 24 California in Memorial Coliseum on Thursday at noon. Then the Cats will have a week off before facing Middle Tennessee on Dec. 28.
There’s a lot of work for his young team to do, Mitchell said, saying UK didn’t play its best basketball on Sunday, but there “are brighter days ahead.
“We’re not a good team yet,” he continued. “We’re not there yet. We have our sights set on being that and I absolutely believe we will.”
No. 24 California at Kentucky: Noon Thursday (SEC)
No. 3 Louisville at Air Force: 3 p.m. Wednesday