Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky’s 71-58 win over Louisville

Kentucky’s Reid Travis powered in a dunk during the first half against Louisville at the KFC Yum Center on Saturday.
Kentucky’s Reid Travis powered in a dunk during the first half against Louisville at the KFC Yum Center on Saturday. Alex Slitz

Instant analysis from No. 16 Kentucky’s 71-58 win over Louisville:

How the game was won

Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro scored 24 points and a stingy UK second-half defense held Louisville to 10-of-31 shooting after halftime and ruined new U of L Coach Chris Mack’s rivalry debut.

Game balls

1. Tyler Herro. It may not have been quite a Rex Chapman-level tour de force vs. U of L, but the UK freshman guard had a rivalry game to remember.

2. Ashton Hagans. Kentucky is a better team when he is on the floor — the quality you want in a point guard.

3. PJ Washington. UK’s sophomore forward did not score big (five points) — but he led the Cats in rebounds, tied for the team lead in assists and did a credible job guarding Louisville leading scorer Jordan Nwora.

4. John Calipari. Louisville has a new coach, but UK’s results against the Cardinals were the same old, same old for the Calipari era. The UK head coach is now 10-2 as top Cat vs. the Cardinals.

5. Christen Cunningham. The former Henry Clay High School guard gave a good account of himself against UK with 20 points and four assists.

What to worry about

1. Kentucky clock management. UK did not handle the final seconds of the first half well and saw what should have been at least a 10-point halftime lead cut to eight on a Jordan Nwora dunk just ahead of the first-half buzzer as a result.

2. UK zone offense. When Chris Mack unveiled a 1-3-1 zone midway through the second half, the Wildcats’ attack became momentarily discombobulated.

3. Louisville talent level. Kentucky may not have the upside of Duke’s fabulous freshmen — but it still has more talent than U of L.

Key number(s)

Three. With Kentucky having also beaten Louisville 56-10 in football last month, this is the third time since UK and U of L began their modern football series in 1994 that the Wildcats have won both the men’s basketball and football contests over the Cardinals in the same school year.

The other times were in 2009-10 (31-27 football; 71-62 basketball) and 2010-11 (23-16 football; 78-63 basketball).


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The atmosphere

The U of L student section fired up a pregame chant of “Where is Quade?” in reference to the recently transferred, former UK guard Quade Green.

U of L held a moment of silence before The national anthem for Louisville police officer Deidre Mengedoht, who was killed in the line of duty Christmas Eve.

In the final TV timeout of the first half, new Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield and former U of L men’s hoops coach Denny Crum were shown on the giant video screens. Satterfield got a polite cheer, Crum a roar.

As reflected by the roar every time Kentucky scored, there was a lot of blue in the KFC Yum Center.

Up next

No. 16 Kentucky (10-2) will travel to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama (8-3) next Saturday (Jan. 5) at 1 p.m. EST in a game that will be telecast on ESPN. It will be the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Know your foe

1. Coach Avery Johnson’s Crimson Tide have home victories over Murray State (78-72 Nov. 26) and Arizona (76-73 Dec. 9) and a neutral-court win over Wichita State (90-86 Nov. 18).

2. The Crimson Tide’s three losses came on a neutral court to Northeastern (68-52 Nov. 15), on the road at Central Florida (70-64 Nov. 29) and at home to Georgia State (83-80 Dec. 4).

3. Since becoming head coach at Alabama in 2015-16, Johnson is 0-7 against Kentucky.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.