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Sports Notes: By any definition, Pitino’s exiting salute to UK fans took some shine off a great game

By Glenn Osborne
KyForward sports editor

A few leftover ramblings from a great rivalry game that lived up to the hype …

Louisville coach Rick Pitino criticized the officiating at halftime of Saturday’s Kentucky game to CBS sideline reporter Dana Jacobson. He was later called for a technical, then capped his day by allegedly flipping off some rowdy fans on his way out of the gym after the contest. He then declined to discuss the Cardinals’ performance in a thrilling 75-73 loss with the media.

All in all, not his finest hour.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino gives instructions to Damion Lee during Saturday's game with Kentucky. Both coaches were called for technicals, but that was just the first of Pitino's slip-ups (UofL Photo by Jeff Reinking)

Louisville coach Rick Pitino gives instructions to Damion Lee during Saturday’s game with Kentucky. Both coaches were called for technicals, but that was just the first of Pitino’s slip-ups (UofL Photo by Jeff Reinking)

A video posted on Twitter shortly after the final horn seemed to show Pitino, walking down the tunnel with his head down, responding to a yelling fan by extending his arm with his middle finger extended. Louisville officials said the video was unclear and Pitino himself sent ESPN a text that read “I didn’t flip off fans. My recollection was a ‘We r #1.'”

It made for a sour ending to what had been one of the better college basketball games of the season. Kentucky jumped to an early lead, Louisville responded, then the Wildcats used a 14-2 run to cap the final two minutes of the half to grab an eight-point advantage at intermission.

The Cats tried to go for the knockout early in the second half, building a 16-point edge three minutes into the period, but Pitino’s gritty squad refused to go away. Although Kentucky never coughed up the lead, the Cards kept chipping away and only a missed three-pointer as time ran out prevented the upset and a rare Rupp Arena loss for John Calipari.

UK has lost just four times in 114 home games with Calipari on the bench and hadn’t been defeated by a non-conference team since Baylor took a nine-point decision on Dec. 1, 2012.

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Getting a few days off for Christmas apparently had a positive effect on the Wildcats. They lost the sluggishness they demonstrated in the loss to Ohio State and they avoided the slow start that has been leaving them staring up at early deficits.

Perhaps most importantly, they didn’t wobble down the stretch when they had to make plays in order to win the game. The Cats demonstrated two traits they will need if they are to play deep into the post-season: toughness overall and a looser offensive approach.

“I really believe having Christmas off for these guys was great,” Calipari said after the game. “Cleared the mind. Let’s come back and let’s do this. I’ve done that every year since I’ve coached. Part of it is for them, the other part is I like spending time with my on family. But when we came back, we zeroed in on those areas and I thought it helped us”

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Louisville backers said before the game that the Cards’ depth could be a factor against Kentucky and that looked to be even more accurate when UK guard Isaiah Briscoe turned and ankle in pre-game warmups and could not play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Charles Matthews, played just 10 minutes and scored two points while collecting four fouls.

The Cardinals received only 19 bench points compared to 18 for the Cats, which included a career-high 13 from junior guard Dominique Hawkins.

Wonder if Briscoe’s absence was a factor when the Cats had no much trouble in-bounding the ball in the late going? Jamal Murray’s ball-handling woes nearly cost Kentucky the win. His three of 14 shooting didn’t help much either.

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Kentucky’s veteran players, Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, Hawkins and Derek Willis, all made big plays during the game and Ulis said afterward that they were well aware of the importance of playing hard against their cross-state rivals.

Ulis, who was seven for 12 from the field, including four of seven from long range, was named MVP of the game for the second year in a row. Poythress, who scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, dominated the game early in the second half when it appeared that a blowout was about to ensue.

“It was a great team performance and we came out with a lot of energy from the jump ball,” Ulis said. “As a team I feel like we played really hard and that’s what got us the win.”

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With school out of session this week, Kentucky figures to get lots of extra practice time and individual instruction over the next few days. The Cats won’t play again until Saturday when Ole Miss comes to Rupp Arena.

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Coach Greg Todd’s Morehead State women’s team will bring a two-game winning streak into Monday night’s game at UC Santa Clara. With a win, the Eagles (6-7) could enter Ohio Valley Conference play against Murray State on Jan. 2 with a .500 record.

MSU was just 4-9 in nonconference play last year, Todd’s first at the helm.

The Eagles have benefitted from the addition of transfer junior guard Brianna McQueen, who came from East Tennessee State and is averaging 12 points a game off of the bench in her first two games.

Morehead ranks first in the nation with 96 blocks and second with 7.4 blocks per game. Junior forward Shay Steele is eighth nationally with 33 blocks. MSU tied a school and OVC record with 16 blocks in a win over Mount St. Joseph on Nov. 23.

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Thomas More College will add nine new members to its Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The newest class will include: Billy Arthur ’93, Pat Berndsen ’08, Mark Carlisle ’07, Garren Colvin ’86, Stephanie (Frondorf) Perkins ’06, Dustin Hicks ’98, Andy Kulina ’87, Brooke Warner ’07 and Laura Wiegele ’06. The College will also have a special recognition for the 1992 and 1993 volleyball teams.

The inductees will be recognized in a ceremony Feb. 20 on the Thomas More campus as a reception will be held at 6 p.m. and dinner and the induction ceremony will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets for the ceremony are $25 and are available via the internet at thomasmore.edu/HOF or by calling (859) 344-3346 before Feb. 13.

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One Comment

  1. Bruce Dickison says:

    Who cares ? It was a great game played by very good players and coached by two of the finest coaches !

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