University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has said time and again during his tenure with the Cardinals that the Kentucky rivalry means more to the fans than it does to either team.
And on the eve of another Dream Game, Pitino said it again.
"It's always a tough game," Pitino said. "It's always a big rivalry that we enjoy. We have a lot of fun with it. We enjoy it."
"The only game (in the rivalry) that has meant anything to me (on either side) was last year's game," Pitino said of the game when the teams met in the Final Four. "And that's because it cost us a championship."
The Cardinals are 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country heading into the 4 p.m. game at the KFC Yum! Center, while the Wildcats are unranked and 8-3 on the season. UK leads the overall series 30-14.
The teams met twice last season with Kentucky winning the regular-season game 69-62 on New Year's Eve. Russ Smith scored 30 points for the Cardinals but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 24 points and 19 rebounds for UK.
In the Final Four game, Anthony Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds for UK. The Wildcats led by 13 points on the second half but U of L tied it at 49 with 9:12 left before UK went on to win 69-61.
Pitino said his team will have center Gorgui Dieng back in the lineup for the first time in over a month after a broken left wrist.
"We're excited to gave Gorgui back," Pitino said. "Our passing gets better and our communication on defense gets better. He's in great shape."
A few more selected quotes from the Pitino presser:
On UK: "I root for (Kentucky) all the time. I wanted them to win the championship. John (Calipari) paid his dues and he deserved championship."
On Calipari: "My relationship with (Cal) has been the same. When they are not playing us, I am rooting for them. They put my name in the rafters (at UK)."
On Russ Smith: "When you are speaking with Peyton (Siva) you can say those kind of things, but you can't say that to Russ. He's a martian."
On the back court: "I don't think we have an advantage. I think it's two really, really good back courts."