Kentucky won its annual meeting with Louisville behind its freshman stars, riding Julius Randle and the Harrison twins to a 73-66 victory. The Wildcats have now won five of their last six games against Louisville and three straight in Lexington.
Kentucky forward Julius Randle scored 17 points in the first half, but spent most of the second on the bench or in the locker room. The freshman suffered from cramps, but the combination of Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress were more than enough to pick up the slack. Cauley-Stein -- a true seven-footer -- was assigned to Cardinals guard Russ Smith in what appeared to be a mismatch. But the center thrived in the matchup, giving Smith fits in the backcourt.
Despite leading the way for Louisville with 19 points, Smith missed a series of shots in the waning minutes that the senior probably wants back. Smith went 0-for-5 from three and shot just 35 percent on the day. Luke Hancock hit a pair of triples in key moments to keep the Cardinals in contention, but finished with just 8 points on 11 shot attempts.
This was a signature win for Kentucky, which will certainly rise from the No. 18 spot in the rankings. Entering the game 0-3 against ranked opponents and undefeated against everyone else, the Wildcats re-asserted themselves as title contenders. Kentucky now enters SEC play, starting off at home against Mississippi State.
Louisville's resume lacks a big win, as the Cardinals have faltered against both of their ranked opponents this season. North Carolina handed them their first loss of the season Nov. 24, which knocked Louisville from the top five in the rankings. After Kentucky and UNC, the best team the Cardinals have faced is … Southern Miss? As a member of a talented American Athletic Conference, Louisville will need to step up to prove it is better than teams like UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis.