Tyler Ulis shook off a bloody cut by his right eye to score 12 key second-half points and lead top-ranked Kentucky to a hard-fought 58-50 victory over No. 4 Louisville on Saturday.
An inadvertent elbow by Louisville's Chris Jones in the first half left Ulis with two thin bandages. He hit two big 3-pointers to give the Wildcats (13-0) a cushion in this showdown between unbeaten Bluegrass State rivals.
Fellow freshmen Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles joined in to help stake Kentucky to a 50-38 lead with 4:43 left.
Towns had 10 points and nine rebounds, while Booker added nine points for Kentucky, which held Louisville (11-1) to 26 percent shooting in a game defined by defense until the freshmen started making their shots.
Lyles added nine rebounds for the Wildcats, who outrebounded Louisville 46-33.
Terry Rozier scored 15 points and Jones had 13 for Louisville, which led just once at 13-12 and couldn't seem to make the shot it needed every time it got close.
Then again, the Wildcats' length and depth had a lot to do with that, especially the poise showed by their highly touted freshmen in front of a hostile crowd of 22,812.
This annual meeting featured more hype than usual because both entered ranked in the top five, the first time the teams had met with both unbeaten. The question was whether Louisville could provide the Wildcats' last real competition with the Southeastern Conference not appearing to offer any obstacles.
Louisville had Montrezl Harrell back from a one-game suspension. The Cardinals have now lost three straight and seven of eight to their rivals because they had no answer for Kentucky's depth, which allowed coach John Calipari to substitute one-for-one at times instead of using full platoons.
Louisville trailed 22-18 at the break, and Wayne Blackshear and Jones had the most trouble against Kentucky's length, combining to shoot 2 for 11 and rarely getting good looks from medium range.
Kentucky often got in its own way in committing 10 turnovers. The Wildcats didn't make it to the foul line, either, while Louisville was 5 of 6, allowing the Cardinals to stay closer than expected.
Willie Cauley-Stein's dunk and Ulis' jumper gave Kentucky a 26-18 lead before Louisville scored six straight points. The freshmen took charge from there for Kentucky.