Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky down Louisville in true Bluegrass Battle
No. 3 Kentucky beat No. 4 Louisville 69-62 in a game that featured 51 fouls
The intense rivalry matchup was more overly officiated than poorly officiated
There's no question Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was Kentucky's best player Saturday
Here are three quick thoughts after No. 3 Kentucky warded off No. 4 Louisville 69-62 in a Commonwealth slugfest. That is, if I can finish typing before fouling out:
1. Tweet, tweet, tweet. Rupp Arena sounded like an aviary after the refs whistled an astounding 51 fouls (plus two technicals). Neither Kentucky nor Louisville are consistently sharp in half-court execution as is, but the constant whistles took any semblance of flow out of the contest.
The result was a ton of scrappy possessions, missed shots and over-the-back fouls. There were some questionable calls, but those went both ways. The game was more overly officiated than poorly officiated. Blame Cincinnati-Xavier for a tighter leash in an intense rivalry game? Louisville fans will decry the Cats' 43-27 advantage in free-throw attempts, but that's directly correlated to ...
2. Kentucky crushed it on the glass. The Cats had 20 offensive rebounds and a huge 48.8 percent offensive rebounding rate (UL only had 21 defensive boards), which allowed them to hurt Louisville with 20 second-chance points in a game where scoring was at a significant premium.
The undermentioned part of the equation, though, was UK also held UL to just 10 offensive rebounds (including a couple in the final minutes, when the game was decided) and a 21.3 percent rate. UK cleaned up 37 defensive boards. The combination of dominant rebounding leading to the second chances and free-throw disparity is what decided the game.
3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is Kentucky's best player. Maybe not the most impactful (that would be Anthony Davis and his condor-like defense around the rim). Maybe not the most important (over the long run, that's probably Marquis Teague, because the Cats' offense often doesn't function without him). But, yes, the best. Need a basket in a rock fight? There's MKG. Need a tough rebound in traffic? There's MKG. Need the hardest-working guy on UK? That's also MKG.
His 24 points and 19 boards in this kind of a game was all sorts of impressive. Davis was a huge factor defensively in the second half and Louisville's Russ Smith was electric at times, with a couple late threes getting him to 30 for the game, but there's no question who the best player on the floor was today. Expect to say that a few more times this season as the Cats enter league play.
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