Sidelines with John Clay

Three more things from Kentucky basketball’s win over Louisville

Kentucky Wildcats forward Skal Labissiere (1) defended Louisville Cardinals guard Damion Lee (0) as UK defeated UL 75-73 in Rupp Arena Saturday Dec. 26, 2015 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky Wildcats forward Skal Labissiere (1) defended Louisville Cardinals guard Damion Lee (0) as UK defeated UL 75-73 in Rupp Arena Saturday Dec. 26, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Lexington Herald-Leader

Three more things from Kentucky’s 75-73 win over Louisville:

1. Calipari took the high road; Pitino the low road

In the days leading up to Saturday's game, Kentucky coach John Calipari implored his team's fans not to make signs or comments or cheers that had anything to do with the alleged “Stripper Scandal” at Louisville which has brought the NCAA to the ‘Ville to investigate possible violations.

And Kentucky fans responded to their coach’s wishes. I didn’t see any signs or hear any cheers. Pitino got booed. But then Pitino has been booed nearly every time he has stepped foot in Rupp Arena since taking the job at UK's most-hated rival oh so many years ago now.

And how did Pitino respond? Having lost a tough game 75-73, the coach didn’t show up for his post-game press conference, sending assistant Ralph Willard out to answer questions. And, according to social media, Pitino may or may not have responded with a certain finger to Kentucky fans who may or my not have been wishing him a Happy New Year as he left the floor immediately after the game.

2. No Skal, no problem

UK opened Saturday’s game without two normal starters. Freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe turned an ankle in warm-ups and ended up not playing. And Calipari also decided not to start freshman center Skal Labissiere, opting instead to start junior forward Marcus Lee, who responded with eight points, seven rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal in 30 minutes. Labissiere saw 10 minutes in a reserve role, scoring two points and grabbing three rebounds.

Kentucky got beat on the boards by 10 (39-29) but found a way to win anyway. That way? Hitting three-pointers. The Cats were 11-of-23 from behind the arc. Tyler Ulis made four of seven threes. Jamal Murray was three of eight. The big surprise was Dominique Hawkins, who made a career-high three three-pointers in four attempts on the way to 13 points.

Not sure if this answers the question of whether Kentucky can win without a low-post scorer. Not sure the Cats are going to shoot the three that well consistently. After all, this is not a team that has been able to hit its threes on a consistent basis. But Kentucky did show it could win that way on Saturday.

3. Calipari over Pitino

Saturday’s result improved John Calipari's record against Pitino to 8-1 since Calipari took over the Cats in 2009. Calipari has won every game between the two in Rupp Arena. He's all but one game between the two in the Yum Center. He has won both games between the two in the NCAA Tournament.

Calipari did so Saturday after giving his team time off early in the week. Despite Louisville looming on Saturday, the Cats were not required to be back in Lexington until Wednesday. They hit the practice floor hard on both Thursday and Friday in preparation for Saturday's game.

Meanwhile, Louisville’s players didn't get to go home. The Cardinals played back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday before practicing on Thursday and Friday for Saturday’s encounter.

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