Familiar outcome in Louisville-Kentucky basketball rivalry

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Best to resist becoming overly optimistic or excited about a University of Louisville basketball game in which the opponent is the University of Kentucky. UofL fans will inevitably be disappointed, the men having lost 10 of the past 12 games to UK in the series.

The rankings, the quality of the players, the season record, none of these things appear to be relevant. The rivalry became lopsided over a decade ago, shortly after John Calipari made the trek from Memphis to Lexington.

Still an intense relationship, however, judging from the ferocity of UK fans in Lexington on Saturday. From the looks on their faces, the self-respect of many seemingly hinging on beating Louisville. The Wildcats rescuing them one more time, this time with a 78-70 overtime decision before 20,437 at Rupp Arena.

A familiar sequence in the series, UofL players playing tight, reverting to early season form on offense and defense. Jumping out to a quick lead at the start, only to quickly give it up and watch UK build a lead, widening it, threatening to put the game out of reach by halftime. 

Louisville’s leading scorer, Jordan Nwora, a non-factor most of the game, unable to get open, unable to make layups or long-distance shots on those rare occasions when he was open, or make crucial free throws for that matter. Watching the game from the bench much of the second half.

The difference between a blowout and an overtime win this time may have been that Kentucky doesn’t have the killer instinct or the  shooters to put the game away. Allowing Louisville to whittle away at the lead behind a determined Dwayne Sutton, UofL somehow managing to tie the score at 61-61 at the end of regulation.

The Cardinals would actually have a three-point lead in overtime before their luck ran out, coinciding with an ugly airball by Ryan McMahon. At that point, with UofL behind 72-70 with 21 seconds to go, the air going out of the balloon. UofL suddenly inept, giving up the ghost, conceding one more time to the Wildcats.

Nwora, averaging 21.2 points per game, could manage only two of 10 field goal attempts and three of five free throws for a total of eight points in the game that matters most for Cardinal fans. McMahon one for five from the field and one of two from the free throw line for four points. 

As for the over all free throw shooting, pretty dismal with Louisville making only nine of 20 attempts, clank, clank, clank.

Can’t be disappointed, however, in Steven Enoch, the fifth-year player leading his team with 18 points and five rebounds. Dwayne Sutton keeping UofL in the game, contributing 14 points and 10 rebounds.  

Were it not for the growing frustration with the lack of success in the rivalry, one would have to acknowledge that Louisville did scratch its way back from a 12-point deficit against a team with its back to the wall. They were in the most intense environment they will see this season, with a very real chance of winning. 

A bitter loss for sure but it still only counts as one loss in a season in which Louisville is 11-2 and ranked third in the nation. The pain will quickly subside as the Cardinals prepare for equally motivated foes in the always rugged Atlantic Coast Conference competition.

Merry Christmas, bring on the holidays for UofL fans

Reflecting the spirit of the season at a UofL basketball game with his elf cap is Sutton Wyatt, the 6-year-old son of Jason and Lori Wyatt. The family has had season tickets for 10 seasons (Photos by Mike DeZarn).

Shopping done, the gifts are wrapped, so we are switching into Christmas mode, fully immersing ourselves in the holiday season.

Every sport at the University of Louisville with an attraction all its own, the fans forever faithful in the pursuit of wins with each new challenge. UofL providing dreams for youngsters old and young, diversions from the rigors, and all the other ups and downs of everyday life.

All those new faces in key positions — Neeli Bendapudi, Vince Tyra, Chris Mack, Scott Satterfield, Dani Busboom Kelly, and John Michael Hayden — exceeding expectations. Dan McDonnell and Jeff Walz maintaining unprecedented success, still aiming higher.

Much to be thankful for, knowing the challenges have made us stronger, the issues will be resolved and the university has so much more to achieve. 

Thanks for being Louisville fans. The Observer appreciates your support of Card Game.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Miami hangs with Louisville but not long enough

Jordan Nwora gets plenty of attention every time he gets the ball but he scored more than 20 points for the eighth time this season. In photo above, the UofL brain trust plots strategy against Miami (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Not a fun game to watch. The University of Louisville basketball struggling for quite a while to escape the clutches of an inferior  Miami (O.) team. Almost a yawner, seemingly going through the motions.

One shouldn’t be too surprised, maybe, not with the nation’s top ranked teams getting everybody’s best game every time out. Big underdogs like Miami, with a 5-5 record, looking to knock off third-ranked Louisville. Hoping to overcome an ugly start to the season, hungry for respect, nothing to lose.

Louisville assistants Mike Pegue, Dino Gaudio and Luke Murray with the game still in doubt (Mike DeZarn photo).

A bad team making a good team look bad? Or a mediocre team exposing the flaws or weaknesses in more respected foe? Hard to tell but the scenario was all too familiar for Louisville in recent games.

UofL finally putting the visiting Redhawks away behind the shooting of Jordan Nwora in the second half in a 70-46 rout before a crowd of 15,444 at the KFC Yum! Center.  The Cardinals would score 17 straight points after Miami had cut the deficit to four points at the 9:02 mark.

Malik Williams pulling down 11 rebounds as the  backup center (Mike DeZarn photo).

Nwora would have two 3-pointers during the run, and would wind up with 20 points, eight rebounds, one assist and a steal for the game. It was Nwora’s eighth 20-point game of the season. He was 7 of 17 from the floor.

Needs to be more careful with the basketball, however, making four turnovers.  UofL had a total of 10 turnovers in the game.

Ryan McMahon and Jordan Nwora wait at scorer’s table to get back into the action (Mike DeZarn photo).

Louisville needs to find other shooters if is going to be a serious contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Ryan McMahon the only other Cardinals in double figure scoring, 11 points, against Miami.

Lots to work on during the holidays between now and Saturday, Dec. 28, as they prepare for a showdown at Rupp Arena.


Double dose of Diop, Louisville hands Kentucky first loss

Jazmine Jones with the L’s up sign for Louisville fans following a one-point win for UofL over Kentucky at Rupp Arena. In top photo, Yacine Diop leaves the floor after shutting down UK’s leading scorer in the second half (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

The outlook was getting worse, the University of Louisville women’s basketball team falling behind Kentucky by nine points with less than eight minutes to go in the third quarter. Situation getting out of hand, with any thoughts of a thrilling 67-66 win all but out of the question.

Some will say that it was two minutes, 25 seconds into that quarter that this UofL team would find itself, shortly after Coach Jeff Walz inserted Yacine Diop into the lineup. Diop was in to try and contain UK’s Rhyne Howard who had scored 22 points to that point. Mission accomplished, Diop allowing Howard only four more points over the next 17 minutes

A couple with divided loyalties manages to stay friendly during the UofL-UK women’s basketball game at Rupp Arena. Official attendance was 11,256 (Mike DeZahn photo).

Diop, who sat out last season with an injury after transferring from Pittsburgh, would contribute four points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer that would cut Kentucky’s lead to 55-53 at the 1:59 mark. She would wind up with a season high eight points to go with six rebounds and two assists.

Providing the go-ahead basket for Louisville would be Kylee Shook, perhaps playing the game of her career. Shook would sink a 3-pointer from the top of the circle in the midst of a furious 13-point run for the Cardinals. 

Coach Jeff Walz with some appreciative comments for Kylee Shook at the post-game press conference (Mike DeZarn photo).

Shook claiming a major stake in this Louisville-Lexington rivalry, making life miserable for those associated with Wildcats. Kylee would finish with her fourth double-double this season, with 11 points and 13 rebounds. UofL needing every one of those, as well as five in-your-face blocks.

Dana Evans, ever the leader, making only one 3-point shot, but leading UofL with 19 points and a whopping 10 assists. Jazmine Jones bringing the enthusiasm, along with 10 points. Bionca Dunham, another Card with a career game, also adding 10 points, three rebounds, three assists and a block.

This game perhaps answering any question about the toughness of this team, setting the stage for more significant victories ahead. The leadership qualities of Evans, Diop, Shook, Dunham and Jones emerging when they were most needed, showing the way for their younger teammates.

Fourth in a row over Kentucky for UofL, ending UK’s undefeated nine-game win streak this season.

Gallery courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton:

Milestone win over Texas for Louisville volleyball

Another one of those unexpected experiences, exciting if not euphoric for faithful fans.

A monumental win, in fact, for a University of Louisville women’s team. No one giving this team a chance against a program that had not lost an NCAA  tournament game at home since 2006. Texas has fallen.

The unranked and unseeded UofL women’s volleyball team in the Elite 8 of the championship tourney after defeating second-ranked Texas in a best of five series. One more win and the Cardinals are in the Final Four for the first time ever.

A few nights ago one had caught a college volleyball analyst making her tournament predictions. She had Western Kentucky University making it through the Sweet 16 before losing to Texas. Never bothered to  mention that Louisville was WKU’s opponent.

UofL, however, would wind up being the only team to defeat Western Kentucky this season. The Cardinals did it twice, once during the regular season, and again this week, 3-2, knocking the Hilltoppers out of the tournament.

Texas was considered a shew-in but Cardinals, coached by Dani Busboom-Kelly, had other ideas. Not intimidated by the Longhorns’ lofty rating or the packed 4,000-seat Gregory Gymnasium, UofL would win the first two sets 25-22 and 25-22, drop the next two 25-18 and 25-17, before winning the fifth set 15-12.

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The game was telecast on ESPNU, which cut away mid-game from NCAA competition between Kentucky and Washington. UK, at the time, had just won its first match after losing two. Their disappointed fans would be left hanging out on Twitter for results. UK  would lose 3-1 and head back to Lexington.