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Kentucky wins Bluegrass battle

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress swats away a shot by Louisville guard Damion Lee, one of Poythress’ three blocks in the game as the Wildcats topple the Cardinals 75-73. “I really believe having Christmas off for these guys was great,” UK coach John Calipari says. “(It) cleared their minds.”

Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS

Kentucky forward Alex Poythress swats away a shot by Louisville guard Damion Lee, one of Poythress’ three blocks in the game as the Wildcats topple the Cardinals 75-73. “I really believe having Christmas off for these guys was great,” UK coach John Calipari says. “(It) cleared their minds.”

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky's shortest player led the Wildcats past their biggest rival.

Point guard Tyler Ulis had 21 points, and No. 12 Kentucky held off 16th-ranked Louisville's rally for a 75-73 win Saturday to give John Calipari his 200th victory as Wildcats coach.

"It was a great team performance," the 5-foot-9 Ulis said. "We played with a lot more enthusiasm from the start."

Damion Lee, who led the Cardinals with 27 points, was well off on a potential winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Kentucky (10-2) led by 16 early in the second half before Louisville came almost all the way back.

"The first half, we gave up a lot of baskets, a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of 3s," Lee said. "We weren't really playing our game. … We fought back. It was a very, very close game against a great team. We just didn't execute down the stretch."

The Cardinals (11-2) had a chance to tie or take the lead with less than a minute left, but Trey Lewis was called for traveling. The Wildcats then committed a shot-clock violation to give Louisville one more chance.

UK had not played since a loss to Ohio State on Dec. 19. "I really believe having Christmas off for these guys was great," Calipari said. "(It) cleared their minds."

Alex Poythress scored 14 for Kentucky. Dominique Hawkins added 13 and Jamal Murray 12.

UK's second-leading scorer, Isaiah Briscoe, sat out after hurting his ankle during pregame warmups. Calipari was surprised Briscoe didn't attempt to play.

"He's a fighter," Calipari said. "What he'll do is he'll come back and kill people next week, if his ankle is healthy."

Freshman guard Charles Matthews started in place of Briscoe, who averages 11.5 points, but it was Hawkins who gave the Cats a spark in his absence. Hawkins hit a clutch 3 and made two free throws in the final three minutes to keep the Wildcats in front.

"For me to have the game I did (Saturday), it was a blessing. I didn't realize I had that many points," Hawkins said. "I was just really confident. Every shot that went up, I felt it was going in."

In the latest installment of the rivalry, Calipari and Louisville coach Rick Pitino both received technicals late in the first half.

Pitino didn't meet with the media after the game. A school spokesman said he was doing a radio interview at the time. He has skipped postgame news conferences on occasion this season. A fan posted a fuzzy video after the game of Pitino making a gesture toward the crowd. "No I didn't flip off the fans. I was in the tunnel," Pitino responded in a text to espn.com. "People were yelling ugly crude things that I didn't like. The 1-8 comment (Pitino's record against Calipari) was fine. But the other comments I didn't like.''

Asked what he gestured toward the crowd, Pitino texted, "My recollection was a, 'we r #1.' "

He declined to elaborate on what comments were made at him, texting only, "It's too ugly.''

Kentucky wins Bluegrass battle 12/26/15 [Last modified: Saturday, December 26, 2015 11:04pm]
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