In addition to my column, three more take-aways from Kentucky’s 90-61 thumping of Louisville on Friday:
1. Key to victory: Defend the three
In the Cats’ 83-75 loss to UCLA last Saturday in the Smoothie King Center — I just like writing Smoothie King Center — in New Orleans, Kentucky watched the Bruins hit 12 of 30 three pointers for 40 percent. The result was the Cats dropped 11 spots, from sixth to 17th, in the Associated Press poll.
“We showed them (the tape of) all 12 threes,” said UK coach John Calipari on Saturday. “We didn’t even guard them.”
Friday was a different day, different opponent, different story. Louisville made just 3 of 25 three-point attempts for 12 percent and lost by the largest margin (29 points) in the series since Denny Crum’s 1999-2000 Cards lost 76-46 to Tubby Smith’s Cats in Rupp.
Deng Adel, who came into the game as Louisville’s leading scorer, was just one of six from behind the three-point arc. Freshman forward Malik Williams was one of four. Long-range specialist Ryan McMahon missed all three of his three-point attempts. And freshman Jordan Nwora was also 0-for-3 from three.
It was the lowest three-point percentage by a UK opponent since Albany was one of 14 for 7.1 percent on Nov. 13, 2015. It was the lowest percentage by a UK opponent that attempted 20 or more three-pointers since Montana State was two of 23 from behind the arc for 8.7 percent on Nov. 23, 2014.
And this also came after UK’s previous four opponents had all made double-digit threes — Harvard 12 of 28; Monmouth 10 of 29; Virginia Tech 10 of 22 and UCLA 12 of 30.
2. Kentucky doesn’t need a big game from Kevin Knox to win
Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote Thursday that the 6-foot-9 freshman from Tampa is the key to how far Kentucky will climb this season. And given that Knox is UK’s leading scorer and best pro prospect, there’s much logic in that line of thinking.
On Friday, however, the Cats proved they do not need a standout game from Knox in order to beat a good team. Knox played just 17 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. He was 2-for-8 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from three-point range. He turned it over twice without making an assist.
Instead, fellow freshman and forward PJ Washington picked up the slack. The 6-7 freshman from Dallas scored 16 points and snatched seven rebounds in a performance that Calipari said was Washington’s best of the season.
In fact, afterward Calipari said he wants Washington to emulate Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors forward who brings both attitude and an all-around game to the NBA champions. Washington said he admired Green but had not heard the comparison made by Calipari. “I don’t know what to say,” said Washington.
As for Knox, Friday was his second-lowest point total of the season, ahead of just the four points he scored in Madison Square Garden, when he went 1-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-5 from three in UK’s win over Monmouth.
After making 11 of 27 three-point attempts for 40.7 percent over his first six games, Knox is seven of 29 for 24.1 percent over his last six games.
3. Now David Padgett’s work with Louisville really starts
The 32-year-old Padgett has never been in this position before because he’s never been a head coach before. Pushed into the job as interim head coach after Rick Pitino’s firing (or start of the process of firing), Padgett had just 48 hours to put a staff together and start practice.
Louisville’s two previous losses were a nine-point defeat at Purdue in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge and a two-point loss at home to Seton Hall. Both of those teams have been in and out of the AP Top 25.
Friday was something completely different. In arguably the most emotional game of the season, at least to the fan base, the Cards got crushed. They shot 38 percent from the floor, including 12 percent from three. They were outrebounded by seven. They averaged just 0.834 points per possession compared to 1.167 for Kentucky.
“Well look, we’ve got 18 ACC games starting on Tuesday, so we have got to bounce back,” said Padgett afterward. “If we don’t learn from this then that’s when it gets really bad.”
While losing by 29 points to his team’s arch-rival probably doesn’t help Padgett’s prospects of getting the job full-time, how the Cardinals react might have more to do with his status long term.
And that starts Tuesday when Kevin Stallings and Pittsburgh comes to the KFC Yum Center.
Louisville men’s basketball 2017-18
John Calipari vs. Louisville as Kentucky coach