Battle of the Bluegrass:Cards Look to Make History

<b>Battle of the Bluegrass</b> - For the first time since 1996, both #20 Louisville (6-1) and #2 Kentucky (7-0) enter the annual rivalry ranked at the same time.

Date Saturday, December 27, 2003
Time/Location 5:00 p.m./ Rupp Arena (23,000)
Television CBS
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.

But it won't be an easy task for Louisville, as they face the #2 Kentucky Wildcats on their home court this evening at 5:00 on CBS.

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 
"I've been very pleased with it," Tubby Smith said of his Cats' recent shooting success. "We were 60 percent in the first half against Indiana and 60 percent in the game against Michigan State. Tonight, we shot over 60 percent and we are an excellent passing team. So, when we take good shots we can make them."

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

Louisville (6-1) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
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
G Larry O'Bannon 6-4 195 Jr 7.3 2.9 Louisville

Reserves: 6'9 Nouha Diakite 2.8, 2.6, 6'9 Otis George  3.1, 2.3, 6'3 Alhaji Mohammad 4.9, 1.4, 6'7 Nate Daniels 6.7, 2.4, 2.8, 6'3 Brandon Jenkins 1.6, 1.9

Kentucky (7-0) Ht Wt Yr PPG RPG Hometown
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

Reserves:  6'5 Antwain Barbour 3.8, 3.3, 7'0 Lukasz Obrzut 1.9, 1.0, 7'3 Shagari Alleyne 1.8, 1.2, 6'9 Bernard Cote 1.4, 0.4, 5'6 Brandon Stockton 1.9


  • Today's meeting marks the 23rd game since the series resumed in 1983. Kentucky holds a 14-8 advantage since U of L won the "Dream Game," 80-68 in Knoxville.
  • This is the first time since December 31, 1996 that both teams enter the game nationally ranked.
  • In six seasons, Kentucky's Tubby Smith is just 3-3 against Louisville.
  • Despite an excellent 2002-03 campaign, UK was just 1-2 against C-USA teams last season, falling to Louisville and Marquette while beating Tulane.
  • Kentucky is currently ranked first in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
  • Despite not starting anyone over 6'8, the Wildcats outrebound their opponents by 8 boards per game and outscore them 44-25 inside the paint.
  • Garcia said he anticipated guarding the 6'3 Fitch today.
  • Apparently, the UK sports information department expects Kentucky to coast past the Cardinals today. The Cats, 7-0, were listed as 8-0 on the media handout from the UK Sports Information Department prior to the game.
  • Pitino flew to Baltimore for the funeral of one of his former Boston players, Steve Wright. Pitino used a letter written by Wright earlier this year to demonstrate to his team the true meaning of courage in the face of adversity.
  • Brad Gianiny broke his nose again on Thursday and will not be available to play against Kentucky.
  • Louisville is 19-1 during the month of December in Pitino's three seasons as head coach. The lone defeat came in 2001 on the road to Kentucky.
  • Pitino is 14-1 against his former assistants, with the lone setback suffered at the hands of Smith and Kentucky in 2001.

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