University of Louisville

Mark Story: In defense of Andrew Harrison

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison drives to the basket in the first  half.          The University of Louisville hosted the University of Kentucky,  Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014 at Yum Center in Louisville.
Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison drives to the basket in the first half. The University of Louisville hosted the University of Kentucky, Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014 at Yum Center in Louisville. Herald-Leader

Ten takeaways to stir the Armageddon rehash:

10). Kentucky's point guards. John Calipari made it four sentences into his post-game news conference following No. 1 Kentucky's 58-50 victory at then-No. 4 Louisville before launching a preemptive counter-attack against any burgeoning "quarterback controversy" regarding Andrew Harrison and Tyler Ulis.

Suffice to say, freshman Ulis shined (14 points, no turnovers) in The Ville while sophomore and incumbent UK starter Harrison (1-of-6 shooting, six turnovers) did not.

Cal pointed out that the 5-foot-9 Ulis had just played his best game as a collegian. But he reminded the media that it was the 6-6 Harrison who quarterbacked UK to the 2014 NCAA title game.

"I was disappointed for Andrew because I know how good Andrew is," Calipari said.

As bad as the Richmond, Texas product looked Saturday, remember Harrison played well against Louisville twice in 2013-14. He had 18 points when the Cats beat the Cards in Rupp Arena last December, then had 14 points, seven assists and only two turnovers when UK eliminated U of L in the 2014 NCAA Tournament round of 16.

It is entirely possible that Ulis is the better player and UK is a stronger team when the little freshman is on the floor. Yet it is entirely likely that there will be many games going forward when Harrison's size, strength and experience make him the better option at point guard.

During those rare games in which foes are competitive with Kentucky, Calipari has shown he will deviate from platooning and substitute situationally by going with the more productive player on that day.

That is why Ulis (26 minutes) got and deserved more clock Saturday than Harrison (20).

I don't get the "controversy." Why wouldn't using both but going with the hotter hand in tight games continue to work?

9). UK vulnerabilities exposed? I would expect opposing coaches to go to school on how Louisville defended Kentucky. As talented as the Wildcats are, what we saw Saturday is that UK does not have an abundance of players who can create offense off the dribble. Though UK's three-point shooting was good at Louisville (6-of-14), it has been shaky often this season.

So if, like U of L, you have tough, ball-hawking guards and enough frontline muscle to make it hard for UK's big men to post up, you have a chance.

Then again, how many teams in the country have that combination?

8). Help wanted. To make a third Final Four in four seasons, Louisville badly needs more scoring options and more depth. That's why true freshmen swingman Shaqquan Aaron and point guard Quentin Snider are vital players for Rick Pitino going forward.

7). Freshmen comparison. UK freshman point guard Ulis was the 21st ranked prospect in the 2014 Rivals 150. U of L freshman point guard Snider was rated 33rd. On Saturday, Ulis was the key player in the Kentucky-Louisville game. Snider logged one minute of playing time and failed to score.

6). Chris Jones. Louisville guard has become a coveted flop, uh, prospect for international soccer federations.

5). A blue state. In the modern (since 1983) Kentucky-Louisville men's hoops series, UK now leads 24-12. The Wildcats are 13-4 in Lexington, 9-7 in Louisville and 2-1 on neutral courts vs. the Cardinals.

4). Rivalry of streaks. In men's basketball, Kentucky has now beaten Louisville seven of the last eight. In women's hoops, UK has taken U of L in five of the last six. In football, the Cardinals have bested the Wildcats four in a row.

3). Mitch Barnhart coaching hires. Are 17-17 against Louisville in the three most visible sports — 7-3 men's basketball, 6-6 women's basketball, 4-8 football.

2). Tom Jurich coaching hires. Are 24-24 against Kentucky in the three most visible sports — 5-11 men's basketball, 8-7 women's basketball, 11-6 football.

1). SEC vs. ACC. Is there one Southeastern Conference men's basketball game upcoming for Kentucky that excites you? Me neither.

Conversely, Louisville has an Atlantic Coast Conference slate that includes two games with No. 3 Virginia, two with No. 19 North Carolina and meetings with No. 2 Duke, No. 14 Notre Dame and Syracuse.

I will say again, U of L playing in the ACC — where you can win in football and see great basketball — will provide Louisville fans a far better "experience" than Kentucky backers get from the Cats being in the SEC.

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