Kentucky women’s basketball coach spent almost as much time addressing the officials as he did his players in a game against the University of Louisville Sunday in front of a crowd of 14,862 fans at the KFC Yum! Center. The tactic was successful, with his UK team upsetting UofL 77-68.
Louisville was clearly the better team with superior players but couldn’t find the basket or value possessions in the second half against a familiar UK press that has hampered UofL the past four seasons.
UofL jumped out to a 16-point lead and led 42-29 at the end of the first half, dominating the Wildcats in all phases of the game in the first 20 minutes. Things went south in the second half with the Cardinals making only seven of 29 field attempts while committing 15 turnovers.
Louisville would wind up with 28 turnovers for the game, including six by Bria Smith, five by Myisha Hines-Allen, four by Jude Schimmel, three each for Sara Hammond and Mariya Moore.
The Cardinals appeared afraid to shoot in the second half. When they did, there were far too many misses beneath the basket, UofL rushing shots or tossing the ball straight up in the air, expecting it to somehow find its way to the basket.
Jude Schimmel, who has played in four losses against UK in four years, will not have one decent memory of the rivalry, closing it out by missing all six of her shots Sunday.
Sara Hammond, a McDonald’s All American from the Bluegrass state, would score her 1,000th point on a free throw. Not much of a presence otherwise, managing 11 points and five rebounds, as she continues to play nice, exhibiting those ups and downs in her senior year.
Prior to the game, Hammond had discussed the importance of winning a game in the rivalry, the bragging rights and all. She also admitted, “We kind of gave it away the last couple years.”
Sunday’s outcome had a very familiar feeling.
The freshmen on the University of Louisville’s women’s basketball team haven’t see anything yet.
Two freshmen — Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore — currently lead UofL in scoring, with Hines-Allen averaging 15.1 points per game and Moore scoring at a 14.3 ppg pace. But they’re about to face some of their toughest tests.
The schedule gets much more challenging with 22nd-ranked Iowa coming to town Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by 13th-ranked Kentucky on Sunday at 2 p.m. Iowa and UK have 6-1 records. Iowa
Even Coach Jeff Walz would have to admit that the youngsters have had it fairly easy up to now with their team racing to a 7-0 won-lost record and a No. 7 ranking nationally during the early going.
Iowa, no doubt, is still nurturing resentment from an 83-53 beating at the hands of the Louisville women in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.
Kentucky? Well, let’s just say the venom between UofL and UK extends to women’s basketball. The only thing they have in common is that they play basketball. There may be some hell to pay if the UK women arrive with the same attitude as the football team did.
Thursday’s game against Iowa and Sunday’s grudge match against UK will both be streamed live on ESPN3.com.
Hard to believe what was happening on the field during pre-game warm ups Saturday. UK players on the Louisville side of the 50-yard line, a place they had no business being, jawing at University of Louisville players, attempting to antagonize them.
A 13-point underdog also stomping on the Cardinal logo, seeking to shift the focus from football to the lowest common denominator, an approach reeking of desperation.
Suddenly, UofL and UK players are mixing it up around UofL’s 40-yard line. A video shows UK’s Jeff Badet, a redshirt receiver from Orlando, jamming UofL’s James Quick in the chest with his hand, later pushing UofL Coach Bobby Petrino from behind.
The melee breaks up briefly, the coaches seemingly getting things under control. But no, it breaks out again near the Kentucky sideline. The video showing Petrino jaw to jaw with a UK assistant, a photo showing Petrino tugging at the assistant’s jacket. Not surprising, given the lack of control by the officials.
After the fracas finally subsides, numerous UK players rush to the south end of the field, raising their hands with their middle fingers extended toward UofL fans and students. Still another display of lack of discipline, further blemishing the image of the university the UK players represent.
Nothing yet from the local sports media, which made so much of a single UofL player “throwing the bird” at UK fans in Lexington a few years ago. So many photographers on the sidelines, so few photos of this particular segment.
The Kentucky coaching staff clearly wanted its players to come into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with an attitude, seemingly confirmed by Bud DuPree, a senior defensive end. “Anytime you’re in a great atmosphere, you need an edge,” he said after the game. “We came out before the game and got an edge. It was great. It just couldn’t hold up.”
Whether UK got an “edge” from the pre-game antics is debatable. Not unusual for an underdog, driven by adrenalin, to grab an early lead in a rivalry game. Probably wasted a lot of energy with those pre-game antics.
Whatever the motivation, UK lost more than another football game.
Kentucky apparently spent every waking minute the past two weeks studying the tendencies of University of Louisville quarterback Reggie Bonnafon, knowing what he was going to do before he did. The UofL freshman was out of sorts, running for his life on every possession.
Bonnafon still holding the ball too long, getting sacked twice for losses of eight and nine yards. Completng only one pass out of five attempts, delivering an interception leading to UK’s first field goal. The situation was dire when he was injured on the second play of the second quarter, UofL trailing 13-0 at the time. Or maybe not.
Fortunately, the UK coaching staff repeated the mistake of the previous staff of overlooking Kyle Bolin, a redshirt freshman from Lexington Catholic who was never offered a scholarship. Third-string quarterback at UofL, little experience, injury plagued, why bother. Not too surprising since he was largely an unknown quantity to his own coaches.
Everybody knows who Bolin is now after leading Louisville to a 44-40 win over UK before a crowd of 55,118 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Bolin wasn’t having any part of a blowout, immediately completing a 10-yard pass to Eli Rogers for a first down. On the next play, he would hook up with DeVante Parker on a 45-yard touchdown.
A little rusty at times, Bolin had come to play, completing 21 of 31 passes for 381 yards, including three touchdown passes. But he would also give Kentucky hope for ending a three-game losing streak in the series, personally giving Kentucky two touchdowns on a fumble and an interception. He would set up the winning touchdown on a 26-yard pass play to Parker, with Brandon Radcliff scoring the next play on a four-yard run.
The Wildcat coaches also had UofL’s running game figured out. Michael Dyer would be limited to 15 yards and he would cough up the ball on his last possession in the game. Radcliff scored two touchdowns, but he would be held to 67 yards on 21 carries.
How appropriate was it that Gerod Holliman would intercept Patrick Towles’ final pass, assuring UofL of the win over its bitter rival and tying the NCAA record 14 interceptions for a season. A touchdown after that 65-yard return would have been even nicer.
Parker would be voted the Howard Schnellenberger Player of the Game with his three touchdown receptions. For the game, he would be credited with six receptions for 180 yards. One has to wonder what the season could have been had he not missed the first six games, such an exceptional receiver, always wanting more yards after the catch.
But to take advantage of Parker’s abilities, UofL needs a quarterback who can find him. Kyle Bolin had no problem getting the ball to the man who can make things happen. UK had no answer for him.
Having the game on the last Saturday of the regular season adds another dimension to the rivalry between the Louisville and Kentucky football programs. The best way to end the season for the winner, extremely bitter for the losing side.
The stakes are even higher considering the outcome could decide whether UofL goes to the Orange Bowl or UK stays home again during the bowl season.
Coach Bobby Petrino, already 4-0 against Kentucky, has even more reason to want to beat the Wildcats again. After UK canned Joker Phillips, Bob Petrino, Sr. was out campaigning for his son, telling local newspapers that Bobby wanted to interview for the job.
Bobby was eager to get back to level one football, even with a program he allegedly hated. The call never came from UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart. A year later, he would fill the position vacated by Charlie Strong at Louisville.
Then, of course, there’s the natural antagonism between UofL and UK fans, especially in Louisville where a smaller, but higher vocal, demographic of UK fans refuses to accept its minority status, for inexplicable reasons turning its back on the hometown school for a school 70 miles away.
In a rivalry game, the outcome is often decided by the team that wants the game the most. In this case, it’s a draw between who wants it the most because no one is giving an inch when it comes this rivalry.
UK has plenty of reasons to want the win. The Wildcats haven’t won a road game in two years, they want to show some progress by getting to a bowl game, and they want to avoid a losing season. A win also would enable them to save some face with their basketball-crazy fan base and salvage the season for them.
Louisville, on the other hand, is about maintaining its reputation as a good football program. A win gives the Cardinals a shot at a blue chip bowl, continued momentum, and a 9-3 season. Plus, UofL still trails 14-12 in the overall series. And, finally, a win for UofL would keep UK football fans quiet for another year. No shortage of motivation for the Cardinals.
Another reason to distrust polls.
A Bluegrass Poll published on Oct. 8 indicated that 51% of the respondents across the state believed the University of Kentucky would win this year’s rivalry game against the University of Louisville, compared to 27% who thought UofL would win.
The poll was divided into four regions, with only the Louisville metropolitan area picking UofL to win, 44% to 36%.
The poll is commissioned by the Herald-Leader and WKYT-TV in Lexington, and the Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV in Louisville. The fact that the question would be included in the poll is curious, especially during an election year. Obviously, a superficial attempt to stir up the fans.
At the time, Kentucky was 4-1, with “signature” wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina. UofL was 5-1, with a disappointing loss at Virginia. The two teams have gone in opposite directions since then, with Kentucky losing five straight games and Uofl winning three out of five.
But Saturday is a rivalry game, evoking deeply felt emotions. Kentucky is still in contention for a bowl bid while UofL has its eye on a possible invitation to the Orange Bowl.
UK fans outnumber UofL fans by 5-1 across the state. Does anyone doubt the results would not be the same if the same respondents were asked the question again this week?
While some fans of school in Lexington may be ready to relegate their football program back to its dusty spot on the shelf, already having morphed into basketball mode, followers of the University of Louisville are preparing for one of the most symbolic football games in school history.
UofL and Notre Dame will meet for the first time ever in football Saturday at South Bend, ushering in a significant new rivalry. The iconic symbol of collegiate athletic programs in America, Notre Dame is the team every other team in America wants to play.
Saturday’s game will be another reaffirmation of the school’s commitment to compete at the highest levels in all sports. While basketball will always be a prestige program, Rick Pitino’s teams must share top billing with Bobby Petrino’s football program. UofL has been investing heavily in both programs for quite a while.
That’s as it should be because college football is among America’s most popular sports, falling only behind the National Football League and Major League Baseball in overall popularity, according to a 2014 Harris Poll. Auto racing is fourth, the National Basketball Association fifth, and the National Hockey League is sixth.
College basketball is seventh, believe it or not, only slightly ahead of tennis, boxing, swimming and golf. The poll results aren’t broken down by geography but suffice it to say, college basketball would obviously score much higher in Kentucky. Even in Louisville, which is consistently among the top TV markets for NCAA basketball.
Tom Jurich is ahead of the curve, having made the UofL football program one of his top priorities after his arrival. He has already engineered one major stadium expansion and he’s considering still another. Jurich was working for a date with Notre Dame long before the Atlantic Coast Conference was considered a possibility. He was able to leverage UofL’s football and basketball success into ACC membership, paving the way for this historic game.
Meanwhile over in Lexington, the University of Kentucky is finally renovating Commonwealth Stadium to accommodate more luxury suites (even though it is losing 6,000 seats) and investing in Mark Stoops to make football competitive. No doubt Kentucky fans will quickly jump aboard the band wagon if and when he does. Meanwhile, UK will remain a basketball school in a conference in which football will always be king.
Curiously, Kentucky and Notre Dame have never played in football, despite having played 62 basketball games since 1929. Whether UK administrators weren’t able to use their basketball leverage to get on Notre Dame’s schedule, UK couldn’t envision such a game, or the Irish simply weren’t interested may never be known. But it probably says something about Kentucky’s over-the-top obsession with basketball.