One of college basketball’s best rivalries adds another chapter Friday, when No. 15 Kentucky hosts Louisville. The past eight meetings between the in-state rivals have been decided by eight points or fewer, but Louisville has not won at Rupp Arena since 2008.
It’s the final game before the beginning of conference play for both teams, but more importantly for Kentucky, it’s a chance to turn the page. The Wildcats have had six days to dwell on Saturday’s 83-75 loss to UCLA, which snapped their seven-game winning streak. “I don’t know how football teams do it where you play one day and then you’ve got a week to have to deal with what just happened,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “It stinks. I would rather play back-to-back. Just play, let’s get that last one, that taste out of our mouth.” The Cardinals have won six straight and are coming off a 74-56 rout of Grand Canyon on Saturday.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (10-2): The Cardinals are one of the nation’s top defensive teams, ranking 13th in field-goal defense (37.6 percent) and second in blocked shots (8.4 per game). Louisville relies on veteran leadership at the offensive end, as junior forward Deng Adel (15.6 points) and senior point guard Quentin Snider (12.3) are the team’s top two scorers. Power forward Ray Spalding (10.8 points, 9.6 rebounds) recorded his fifth double-double of the season with a career-high 21 points and 16 rebounds against Grand Canyon.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (9-2): The Wildcats start five freshmen, and their youth has shown in losses to Kansas and UCLA. Kevin Knox (15.7 points, 5.6 rebounds) has been the team’s most consistent scorer, but Hamidou Diallo (15.5 points) has scored 18 or more points in five straight games, averaging 19.8 over that span. Kentucky has some quality depth, as seven players average at least seven points, and No. 7 scorer Wenyen Gabriel recorded a season-high 16 points against UCLA.
1. Kentucky is 15-2 against in-state opponents under Calipari, including an 8-2 mark against Louisville.
2. Louisville C Anas Mahmoud (8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds) ranks second in the nation in blocks (4.3) and has registered nine on two occasions this season.
3. The Wildcats make only 5.3 3-pointers per game - 16th-fewest in the nation.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 77, Louisville 75