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Cats made it look so easy against rival Cardinals in rivalry blowout, 90-61

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

So we now know this much about Kentucky’s basketball team.

They can play and play well.

Kentucky’s 90-61 victory over Louisville on Friday was about as thorough as it was surprising. I mean, really, who saw this coming?

Just last Saturday, the Wildcats were caught sleepwalking in an 83-75 loss to UCLA. Something was missing and it didn’t look good. This freshmen weren’t doing what Coach John Calipari’s freshmen usually do: They were playing like freshmen.

Sasha Killeya-Jones dunks the ball (Kentucky Today photo by Tammie Brown)

“I said today before the game, we’re no longer freshmen, I’m not saying it anymore, we’re not freshmen anymore,” said Calipari after UK’s biggest winning margin in the rivalry since the 1999-2000 season. “We’re 10 games in, 11 games in, we are not freshmen. And the other thing I said we’ve got to start smashing people.”

Well he can put a checkmark in that box after Friday.

And there’s no better team to smash than Louisville if you ask Kentucky’s fans. It was like the Wildcats were playing one of those directional schools.

But this wasn’t Southwest Central Kentucky on the court. This was the University of Louisville and they are good even it if didn’t show on Friday.

The game had a weird vibe to it all week with the absence of one Rick Pitino from the Louisville bench. You could almost hear the stomping of his Gucci souls on the sideline as the Wildcats’ lead ballooned from 12 to 16 to 20 to 30 and finally all the way to 32.

Are you kidding me? If Pitino was watching – and at least one tweet said he couldn’t do it – then he must have been screaming at the television screen.

We hadn’t seen games like this from Seisha Gilgeous-Alexander (24 points and some smooth moves) or from PJ Washington (16 points and 7 rebounds) so far this season. And we also saw Kentucky’s defense do the job, whether it was in man-to-man or zone which Calipari wisely employed early in the second half when Louisville started finding its big men.

They say that losses can sometimes be good for you and if the Cats continue to progress they will likely look back at the loss to UCLA in the Big Easy when anything they did was anything but easy.

Calipari, the master motivator, used that game as a stick to beat on the Cats all week. It was perfect.

This was, by a longshot, the best these freshmen have played together since they gathered on campus.

Now they need to remember how they did it, how working together on offense and defense made them a remarkable force that would have taken down any team in the country. That’s how the rest of the season needs to be.

They don’t have long to savor this rivalry win over Louisville no matter how sweet it may have been.

A good Georgia team comes to Rupp on Sunday to begin Southeastern Conference play and league games with LSU and Tennessee follow. Any of those three teams are good enough to beat Kentucky on a given day.

But if Friday’s play becomes the norm, we can again look forward to a successful run in the SEC and beyond.

Bottle this one up and pop the cork on a Happy Blue Year!

Mark Maynard is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at mark.maynard@kentuckytoday.com

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