|Date||Saturday, December 27, 2003|
|Time/Location||5:00 p.m./ Rupp Arena (23,000)|
|Radio||WHAS (840 AM)|
|Series History||Kentucky leads 23-11|
|U of L Ranking||20th AP, 20th ESPN/USA Today|
|Satellite Coord.||SBS 6, Transp 6 (KU Band)|
|Officials||John Clougherty, Rick Crawford, Ted Valentine|
It has never been done before.
Not since the two schools resumed playing football in 1995, has the winner of the annual gridiron contest also claimed victory during the same season on the hardwood.
So with a 40-26 victory over the Wildcats in Commonwealth Stadium last September, the Louisville Cardinals will look to make history today in Rupp Arena and become the first school in the rivalry to make a clean sweep in both sports in the same season.
Kentucky enters the game 7-0 on the young season and is fresh off a 101-72 thrashing of Eastern Kentucky Tuesday night in which they shot 64 percent from the field and handed out 28 assists. The Cats also haven't lost a regular season game since falling 81-63 last December in Freedom Hall.
Smith happy about team's progress
UK, which starts three seniors and a junior, boasts one of the most experienced and productive starting lineups in college basketball. Led by shooting guard Gerald Fitch, each of Smith's five starters average double figures in scoring, topped by the 6'3 Macon, GA natives 19.1.
"I think there are three or four teams in this country right now that stick out because they've got veterans, they're great on defense, and they're unselfish on offense," Pitino said. "And Kentucky's one of those three or four teams. They just really understand the game. They're very impressive."
Kentucky has also proven strong on the boards this season, despite being undersized up front and having to replace 6'9 Marquis Estill and 6'10 Jules Camara. Led by forward Chuck Hayes and center Erick Daniels, the Cats are outrebounding foes by 8 per contest. The result: Kentucky outscores its opponents 44-25 inside the paint.
Louisville's Rick Pitino will try to counter Kentucky's home court advantage, experience and interior strength with depth, execution and courage.
Since dropping its opener to Iowa in late November, the Cards have reeled off six consecutive wins, including an impressive 107-56 pasting of VMI Tuesday night in which they hit 18 three pointers and dished out a school record 34 assists.
"Our guys took care of business and they were very professional with the way they passed the basketball," Pitino said about his teams performance against VMI. "A lot of times in a lopsided victory, players tend to hunt your own shot, but our guys didn't do that…they thought pass before shot."
But it has been Louisville's defense, rather than its potent offense, that has been its staple to this point. Pitino's troops have employed their traditional full court press and man-to-man defense early in the season, but have also been successful incorparating some zone and half court traps to force turnovers and bad shots. Louisville ranks among the nation's best field goal percentage defenses (.356) and has proven effective effective blocking shots (8.2 per game, 2nd NCAA).
On the eve of a game they're not favored to win, U of L's Taquan Dean and Francisco Garcia said they'll have to play hard for forty minutes and make each possession count to come out with their first road victory of the season.
"Today is going to be a fun game," Dean said. "It's what you dream about growing up. Every possession counts and we'll have to survive their first punch. When the odds are against us, that's usually when we play our best."
Garcia concurred with his sophomore roommate.
"I'm really looking forward to playing in their arena," Garcia said. "I'm going to stay focused on my game and not what's going on off the court. We're going over there to hard for forty minutes. We've got to survive their run and when that happens just stay focused and execute."
And the thoughts from the other side?
"We just have to be prepared for Louisville," Eric Daniels said. "They're going to bring a lot of pressure and we just have to make good decisions."
Pitino has often alluded to this season as a building block for future success and figures playing a tough and battle tested team like Kentucky in Rupp Arena will provide a measuring stick to guage the progress of his young team.
"I think its something we definitely look forward to," Pitino said. "It's a great challenge. It's a measuring stick to see how much improvement you're making. Kentucky has much more experience and defensive tenacity than Florida."
Probable Starting Lineups
|F||Luke Whitehead||6-6||220||Sr||14.9||10.4||San Francisco|
|F||Francisco Garcia||6-7||185||So||18.6||4.5||Bronx, NY|
|C||Kendall Dartez||6-10||225||Sr||4.9||4.6||Houston, TX|
|G||Taquan Dean||6-3||185||So||13.9||4.0||Neptune, NJ|
|F||Kalenna Azubuike||6-5||208||So||10.9||5.3||Tulsa, OK|
|F||Chuck Hayes||6-6||247||Jr||13.0||9.6||Modesto, CA|
|C||Eric Daniels||6-8||214||Sr||15.7||6.6||Cincinnati, OH|
|G||Cliff Hawkins||6-1||187||Sr||11.7||2.3||Dumfries, VA|
|G||Gerald Fitch||6-3||188||Sr||19.1||4.0||Macon, GA|