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December 29, 2012

Louisville vs. Kentucky: Five Quick Hits

Louisville closed out its first win over rival Kentucky in five tries, beating the Wildcats 80-77 Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center. CardinalSports.com's Howie Lindsey was on the baseline for five quick hits.

Louisville's man pressure defense had an effect on Kentucky's ball-handlers. The Wildcats only committed seven turnovers in the first half, but they were hurried throughout. Louisville's first half run came as a result of three straight UK turnovers.

It was more of the same in the second half. Four straight Kentucky turnovers allowed Louisville to build a 17 point lead. Louisville's pressure on the ball and aggressiveness in the passing lanes led to easy buckets in both halves.

Louisville pressed Kentucky into 15 turnovers and scored 19 points off of those turnovers. Kentucky was more opportunistic, scoring 14 points off Louisville's nine turnovers.

Another factor? Louisville's transition game was fantastic. The Cardinals held Kentucky to just two fast break points while scoring 20 themselves.

Despite saying Dieng would start and that Dieng's parents, who were visiting from Senegal, wouldn't understand if he wasn't in the starting lineup, Dieng didn't start. Sophomore reserve Zach Price started and played nearly two minutes before picking up his first foul and being replaced by Dieng.

Dieng had a large red cast on his wrist, but played well during the six minutes he played. Dieng was taken out of the game with just under 11 minutes left when he was whistled for his second foul. The foul, which should have been a Kentucky turnover, could have easily been called on Montrezl Harrell.

In fact, it appeared Louisville though the foul was on Harrell when they substituted him out of the game on the next dead ball. He quickly took Dieng's place after two more possessions. Dieng went to the bench with two points, three rebounds and two fouls.

Dieng played 20 minutes, playing most of the second half, finishing with six points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.

I was standing at the edge of the photographers when the Cardinals took the court for the first time before the National Anthem (which was very well done by the way). It was fun to watch Gorgui Dieng's parent's reaction as the crowd let out its first major roar as the team ran in.

Gorgui's mother, lit into a big smile ear to ear and clapped modestly. His father, Momar, raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked at his wife before surveying the court as the players ran in. For the next 10 minutes they were surrounded by well-wishers and people taking pictures with the others in their traveling party.

Both his father and mother had long sleeves and hats on despite the steamy temperature in the Yum! Center. They stayed seated through most of the game, watching with interest.

Louisville was up 51-34 with just over 15 minutes left in the game. Kentucky was reeling and wobbling, wilting under the pressure of Louisville's defense. Then the Cardinals gave their arch rival a break. Back-to-back missed assignments left UK sharpshooter Kyle Wiltjer open for threes.

Instead of icing the game, Louisville allowed UK to cut the margin to 11, then to single digits and then to 41-44 at the 13 minute mark. Louisville finally scored again at the 12:24 mark when Russ Smith got a layup in transition.

Kentucky continued to press into Louisville's lead, cutting the margin to just four points, 61-57, at the seven minute mark. The teams traded baskets on the next two possessions, before a Ryan Harrow jumper cut the margin to 63-61 with just under six minutes left.

A pair of free throws by Russ Smith sent the lead back to four, a rebound putback a UK free throw later inched Louisville's lead back to five and a pair of free throws from Chane Behanan put Louisville up 69-62 with under four minutes left.

The Cardinals couldn't put the Wildcats away until the final buzzer as UK made 10 threes, seven in the second half.

Peyton Siva picked up his fourth foul with 10:11 left. Siva was taken out of the game shortly after.

Russ Smith picked up his fourth foul less than a minute later. He was left in the game, but Louisville had to have him in the game to bring the ball up the court.

Dieng, who was already taken out of the game with four fouls earlier in the second half, returned with Siva just under the six minute mark with Louisville up by four points.

"It was really frustrating honestly because I know they weren't calling the same things in the first half," Smith said after the game.

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