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.

Dwayne Sutton not taking Kentucky lightly

By Ed Peak

Dwayne Sutton makes no bones about it. He and his family have been University of Louisville basketball fans forever. That’s why Saturday’s game against rival Kentucky is big to him.

Dwayne Sutton doesn’t remember any University of Kentucky fans in his family (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Sutton, a senior forward and Louisville native played his high school ball at Dupont Manual, just down the street from UofL. “This game was huge,” said Sutton who averages nine points and eight rebounds as a starter for the third ranked Cards.

“My parents were UofL fans (growing up). There were not many UK fans in my family. I always wanted UofL to win. As a UofL player, that means a hundred times more ”

Sutton is 0-2 against the Wildcats and hopes this season the Cardinals (11-1) can turn the tables on their in state rivals. “I watched the game every time, every year,” said Sutton.

One of Sutton’s favorite memories is Edgar Sosa’s game winning shot from 25 feet in 2009, giving UofL a 79-76 win at Freedom Hall.  “It came almost from half court,” said Sutton. He believes Louisville will have to be aggressive even though they are playing at Rupp Arena, a place in which it is difficult for any team to win, let alone a rival.

“When you play on the road you have to play smart,” said Suttton. “We have to play without fouling. I think we can do that tomorrow.”

Sutton said that if Louisville is to win they have to follow several rules. “We have  to be aggressive, disciplined. We have to go out there and use our experience to our advantage.”

*    *    *

Chris Mack is taking nothing for granted, knowing Rupp Arena will be a hostile atmosphere (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

Kentucky (8-3) comes into the game on a two-game losing streak. It has a quality win over Michigan State and loses to Evansville, Utah and fifth ranked Ohio State.

“They are the most athletic team we’ve played,” said Louisville coach Chris Mack. “They can make plays on and off the ball. They are extremely impressive. They strike in transition. They turn you over. They obviously have a history of blocking shots. They are extremely quick and how they punk teams on the glass is impressive.”

Kentucky has had a tough time with its perimeter shooting. The Wildcats are shooting 27 percent from three point range. That doesn’t matter to Mack.

“We’re going to try and contest shots, whether your a 50 percent three point shooter or a 25 percent shooter. Defensively we want to keep the ball in front   us. That’s a big, big challenge against Kentucky.”

It’s always a challenge when Louisville plays Kentucky, and vice versa … for players, coaches and fans at both ends of the spectrum. 

More than just a game.

Music City Bowl perfect for Louisville football team

By Ed Peak

Way too many college football bowl games for some people. A team has to be really bad not to make the post season. Football fanatics love every one of the bowls.

Had it not been an influx in bowl games several years ago Louisville (7-5) would not be practicing for the Music City Bowl, December 30th, against Mississippi State (6-6).

Some of  my sportswriter associates and radio talking heads make fun of the non-championship games. Yes. There are too many bowl games. But UofL’s invitation is perfect in this situation.

Remember Charlie Strong’s first season in 2010. Louisville earned a 30-27 come-from-behind win over Southern Mississippi in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. That game seemed to set the tone for future Cardinal teams. This season is no different. A win over the Bulldogs might would be a milestone win for Satterfield. ” We need to have fun and enjoy the experience,” he said. “We need to take this and build on it.”

Satterfield, the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year, had 15 extra practices to help this team work on its weaknesses and sharpen its skills. If the Cardinals win they finish 8-5, it would certainly help recruiting and be a huge reward for the players that stayed through the horrible Bobby Petrino II coaching regime.

He has already surpassed Petrino in most of the ways that count, creating reason for optimism, generating confidence where there was none, creating an close-knit family atmosphere with players playing for each other and their coaches.  More wins this past season than anyone had a right to expect. No matter how the Cards fare this weekend, they will be much farther along that they were a year ago. 

Satterfield earned ACC Coach of the Year honors, not even close. He and his staff made football fun again. The Music City Bowl is special in so many ways for University of Louisville football fans, sticking with their team through some of most challenging times in the program’s history. 

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.