(4) Louisville (12-1) at (3) Kentucky (12-1)
Saturday, December 31st, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,000) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: CBS. Home Record: UofL 11-1, UK 9-0. Away Record: UofL 1-0, UK 0-1. Neutral Record: UofL 0-0, UK 3-0. Conference Record: UofL 0-1, UK 0-0. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 28-14.
GAME NOTES: Instate rivals close out their respective 2011 campaigns this afternoon in Lexington, as the third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats play host to the fourth-ranked Louisville Cardinals.
Rick Pitino's Cardinals opened the season with 12 straight victories, but suffered their first defeat in opening up Big East play this week, falling at home to nationally-ranked Georgetown, 71-68. Still, Louisville's 12-1 start is its best since the 2003-04 season. Pitino is certainly know stranger to Kentucky, as he led the Wildcats to three Final Four appearances, as well as a national title in 1996.
John Calipari's Wildcats are also 12-1 on the season, but their lone loss came back on December 10th at Indiana (73-72). Since then, Kentucky has strung together four straight victories, including an 86-64 drubbing of Lamar this week. Kentucky holds the nation's longest current homecourt winning streak at 43 games.
The Wildcats hold a 28-14 edge in the series and have won the last two meetings, including a 78-63 decision last year in Louisville.
Louisville trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half this week against Georgetown, but the comeback bid fell short in a three-point loss to the Hoyas. Kyle Kuric led the offensive charge for the Cardinals with 17 points. Peyton Siva and Russ Smith added 15 and 14 points, respectively. The Cardinals were only able to shoot a modest .417 from the floor in the game and were outrebounded by the Hoyas 38-32. The Cardinals are at their best when they can impose their defensive will on opponents, which wasn't the case against Georgetown. On the season, Louisville is limiting the opposition to just 58.0 ppg, holding them well under 40 percent shooting (.371). In addition, Louisville also possesses a +5.8 rebounding margin. Kuric is the team's leading scorer at 13.5 ppg, followed by Smith's 10.8 ppg. Sophomore center Gorgui Dieng has been strong in the middle, averaging a double-double with 10.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
Kentucky may be young, but the team has shown great poise and balance at both ends of the floor this season. The Wildcats come into this contest with an impressive +23.5 scoring margin, tops in the SEC. The team is shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor (.498) and is netting 82.1 ppg, while holding foes to a mere 59.1 ppg, on a national best 35.2 percent accuracy overall. Kentucky also leads the nation in blocked shots (9.4 per game), is outrebounding opponents by almost seven boards per game and is forcing nearly 15 turnovers. The scoring pool is deep, with six players averaging double figures. Doron Lamb leads the offensive charge with 15.8 ppg. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is next in line with 13.5 ppg, followed by Terrence Jones (12.1 ppg), Anthony Davis (11.6 ppg), Marquis Teague (11.2 ppg) and Darius Miller (10.5 ppg). Davis is yet another freshman phenom for Calipari, as in addition to his scoring, he has been a dominant force down low with 10.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game. In the win over Lamar, Kidd-Gilchrist led the way with 18 points. Miller and Teague finished with 15 points apiece, while Lamb tacked on 12. Davis recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while swatting six shots.
This one looks to be evenly matched, as both teams will look to establish themselves early on. The Wildcats get the advantage of this game being at Rupp Arena and should be able to deliver in front of the hometown faithful.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 76, Louisville 71
12/31 10:40:49 ET