Louisville against Kentucky. Pitino against Calipari. Rival against rival.
State bragging rights on the line and both teams desperate for a signature win this season.
Neither team entered Saturday's game where it began the season (in the top five), but there was still plenty of excitement surrounding the battle for the Commonwealth.
Absolutely Louisville - Kentucky the best rivalry in college hoops.. The hate is real..the insanity is au natural..most passion..not close— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) December 28, 2013
The intensity between UK- Louisville so unique & Pitino & Calipari add to the electricity.— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) December 28, 2013
The Cardinals jumped out to an 8-0 lead at Rupp Arena, but the host Wildcats clawed back and led by as many as nine. But then Russdiculous happened -- as in a Russ Smith dunk that became an instant lock for #SCtop10.December 29, 2013
The victims of Russ Smith's dunk will be remembered after this game. Send flowers.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) December 28, 2013
I can't remember the last time I saw Russ Smith dunk even casually. And I'm pretty sure he's never done anything like that.— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) December 28, 2013
Despite a monster first half by Julius Randle and UK thoroughly dominating most of the first 20 minutes, Big Blue's lead was just five at the break.
Rick Pitino has to be disgusted heading into halftime with the way his team has played, yet ecstatic Louisville only down 41-36.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 28, 2013
What Randle is doing in this game is phenomenal ..wow..17 at half— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) December 28, 2013
Give me Randle and Cauley-Stein and then we'll go from there.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) December 28, 2013
But after a sensational first half, Randle was injured early in the second and played sparingly for the Cats.
Randle came in and back out. Really looks like he's in pain.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) December 28, 2013
Did it matter? It did not. Kentucky actually extended its lead without its best pro prospect.
UK answering the call without Randle in the lineup; offense has been very balanced— C.L. Brown (@clbrownespn) December 28, 2013
Julius Randle comes back onto the bench with warmups on. I think UK did just fine without him this afternoon.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 28, 2013
Well, this looks like the Kentucky team that could end up in Dallas.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) December 28, 2013
Kentucky size length and depth too much for Cards. If Cats closeout will people talk about Cards non conference schedule— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) December 28, 2013
The Louisville big men were ineffective all day long, but the Harrison twins certainly awoke in the second half (as Smith did the opposite).
Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell on a milk carton somewhere.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) December 28, 2013
Harrison twins playing downhill & on balance. Ville front court a total non factor. Said today, without front court contribution no Final4!— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) December 28, 2013
B4 game the VBDI said Harrisons must be effective - Cats would win if they were factors -18 between them 2nd half - a major plus 4 BBN— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) December 28, 2013 December 28, 2013
Russ Smith: scoreless in final 8:43 after making FT to tie game at 53. He missed his final 4 shots and Louisville was outscored by 7.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 29, 2013
Even Kentucky forward Alex Poythress, who had been quiet most of the day, got in on the act with a dunk that all but put UL away for good -- giving the Cats a 10-point lead with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining.
Alex Poythress lives!— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) December 28, 2013
Louisville never got closer than five in the final couple of minutes as Kentucky closed out its rival and picked up its first marquee win of the season.
Bluegrass State bragging rights belong to Kentucky! The Wildcats top No. 6 Louisville 73-66 in Lexington. James Young: 17 pts, 10 reb, 4 ast— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2013
This Kentucky team deserves a ton of credit for this win. No Randle for most of second half, different guys stepped up at different times.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 28, 2013
That's a great win for Kentucky— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) December 28, 2013
Cats win, 73-66. Very impressive going the final 11:01 without Julius Randle.— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) December 28, 2013
UK turned Louisville over, challenged (almost) everything, and owned the glass. Best defensive performance of the year by a mile.— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) December 28, 2013
No. 18 Kentucky def. No. 6 Louisville, is 5-1 vs Cardinals under John Calipari. UK is 1-3 vs ranked teams, LOU is 0-2 (11-0 vs unranked).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 28, 2013
There are no must-wins in December but Kentucky probably needed that one over Louisville for confidence heading into SEC.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) December 28, 2013
Not a bad L 4 Cards-on road vs a team in desperate need 4 a big W- 4 Cards to be a major player in March Behanan must respond.— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) December 28, 2013
Kentucky answered questions today. Louisville raised them.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 29, 2013