Louisville composed in win vs. Kentucky
by Tim Sullivan, USA TODAY Sports
LOUISVILLE — Before the rejoicing, there was relief. Before the University of Louisville’s basketball fans could exult, they had to exhale. If revenge is a dish best served cold, it arrived Saturday afternoon like a slow-motion avalanche: inexorable and agonizing, tortuously tense.
The Cardinals claimed an 80-77 victory in their rancorous rivalry with the University of Kentucky Wildcats at KFC Yum! Center, but only after causing a record crowd of 22,810 to act out its anxieties with gnawed nails and held breath.
A lead that once reached 17 points was sliced to a single basket with more than five minutes to play. Louisville’s three most accomplished players were all saddled down the stretch with four fouls. U of L’s opportunity for payback, to stop a streak of four consecutive losses to UK and lay temporary claim to Commonwealth preeminence, was evaporating like a snowman in a sauna.
But a funny thing happened on the way to what might have seemed an unthinkable collapse: the Cards located their composure, stopped their reaching, relied on their experience and seized the day from the brink of disaster. Although it might not count for much in March, and though it is sure to mean more to the partisans than it did to the participants, this was one of those statement games that spoke eloquently.
“We try not to play toward the clock,” said Peyton Siva, the Louisville point guard. “That’s really a lot of teams’ downfall when they wait for time to run out. Coach (Rick Pitino) tells us all the time, ‘Don’t look at the clock. Keep playing aggressive. Keep your feet on their necks.’ “
The pugnacity of Louisville’s posture was severely constrained Saturday. Siva, Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng would all earn a fourth foul with more than nine minutes remaining in regulation. Siva ultimately fouled out in the final minute to facilitate a four-point play by Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin.
Yet the Cards were just smart, clutch and fortunate enough to be … [For more on Sullivan: Louisville composed in win vs. Kentucky, click here.]