Sports

Cats have reason for hope

Revving up the rivalry rehash:

Up: Edgar Sosa. Two years ago, when Sosa missed a late-game three-pointer that could have beaten Billy Gillispie and Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Rupp Arena, the Louisville point guard was weeping openly afterward in the locker room.

Sosa's 26-foot bomb that gave U of L Sunday's 74-71 win over Gillispie and Kentucky was a nice karmic payback.

Down: Anyone criticizing Michael Porter's defense of Sosa on U of L's final play.

Before he made his final shot, Sosa was 8-for-38 on the season from three-point range. By the percentages, he figured to be far more dangerous if he put the ball on the floor and drove.

So Porter was smart to play off Sosa. In doing so, the UK point guard induced a 21-percent three-point shooter to take a shot from at least 5 feet behind the three-point line.

It was exactly the shot Kentucky should have wanted Louisville to take.

It just so happened that a bad shooter taking a difficult shot under game-winning pressure happened to make it.

Up: Kentucky's post-season chances. UK clearly is a flawed team. Against quality foes, turnovers (21 against U of L) remain a plague. There is no consistent scoring other than Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson.

Yet I left Freedom Hall on Sunday feeling positive about the direction of UK's season. If the turnovers can be reduced even slightly, if some offense grows around Patterson and Meeks, I expect UK to make it to the second week of the NCAA Tournament (the round of 16) for the first time since 2005.

Down: Louisville's post-season chances. I entered this year thinking Rick Pitino's Cardinals were a legitimate Final Four contender. I still think the Cards have Final Four talent.

But there are just too many enigmatic personalities — who tend to occupy the ball — on the U of L roster. I'll be stunned if this bunch can string together the four straight quality performances it takes to reach the Final Four.

Up: Tom Jurich coaching hires. Head to head against Kentucky in the three most visible sports, coaches hired at Louisville by Jurich are now 18-10.

They are 7-4 in football (John L. Smith 3-2, Bobby Petrino 4-0 and Steve Kragthorpe 0-2); 4-4 in men's basketball (Rick Pitino 4-4); and 7-2 in women's basketball (Martin Clapp 2-1, Tom Collen 3-1, Jeff Walz 2-0).

Down: Mitch Barnhart coaching hires. Head to head against Louisville in the three most visible sports, coaches hired at Kentucky by Barnhart are now 3-11.

They are 2-4 in football (Rich Brooks 2-4 but on a two-game winning streak); 0-2 in men's basketball (Billy Gillispie 0-2); 1-5 in women's basketball (Mickie DeMoss 1-3, Matthew Mitchell 0-2).

Up: Patrick Patterson. If the UK big man felt he had something to prove after last season's 3-for-14, six-turnover performance against U of L, consider the message delivered. Patterson (22 points, 15 rebounds, four assists) was the best player in Sunday's game.

Down: Earl Clark. If the U of L big man felt he had something to prove after missing last season's Kentucky game because of disciplinary issues, he did not deliver quite the message he hoped. Clark had 10 points and eight rebounds, but he shot only 2-for-11, turned the ball over seven times and fouled out.

Up: Rick Pitino. That old saying about sometimes it's better to be lucky than good?

If Sosa's three-point bomb had not found net, the Louis ville coach would have had questions to answer about A.) not getting a higher-percentage shot at the end of regulation; B.) his team's last-minute meltdown that saw U of L foul a three-point shooter and turn the ball over twice to allow UK to erase all of a seven-point deficit in the game's last 50 seconds.

Down: Billy Gillispie. The UK coach wouldn't reveal what he said to get the second-half technical foul that came immediately after Kentucky had scored to take its only lead (43-42) of the game, so there is no way to know whether the T was deserved.

Immediately after the call, Louisville went on a 12-0 run. At the least, it was an odd time for an experienced coach to allow himself to get teed up.

Up: Freedom Hall. If, as expected, this was the last UK-U of L game ever to be played in the venerable old basketball palace, it was a game worthy of a great venue.

Down: Kentucky high school basketball. Former Clark County star Preston Knowles hit one jump shot for Louisville — just as he did in last season's UK-U of L game.

That makes two field goals in the last three years by products of Kentucky high school basketball in our state's marquee college basketball game.

As you read this, only 257 days until the UK-U of L football game.

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