Cats Go Flat In 2nd Half, Fall To Louisville

AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Rick Pitino thinks Billy Gillispie will one day get Kentucky back among the nation's elite.

That didn't stop Pitino from turning Gillispie's debut in the rivalry locals call "The Dream Game" into another nightmarish chapter for the first-year Wildcats coach.

Using a myriad of defenses that rattled Kentucky and silenced raucous Rupp Arena, Louisville raced to an 89-75 win Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak against its biggest rival.

"Our guys played a good, smart basketball game," Pitino said.

Smart enough to extend Kentucky's misery and give the Cardinals (10-4) a much-needed boost heading into the rugged Big East schedule.

It's a stretch the Cardinals appeared to be ready for after forcing 22 turnovers and playing with the kind of intensity and cohesion they have lacked at times this season.

Senior forward Juan Palacios - who missed the first 10 games with a knee injury - scored 17 points to go with six rebounds and four assists, ending three years of frustration against the Wildcats.

"No senior wants to leave Louisville without beating Kentucky," said Palacios, who limped so painfully through practice all week that Pitino wondered if he would even play. "This is big for us. It gives us confidence."

The Wildcats had hoped an upset of their rivals would help erase the memory of stunning home losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego.

Instead, Kentucky (6-7) will stumble into SEC play under .500 for the first time since 1988-89, the season before Pitino arrived in Lexington to revive a program decimated by scandal.

Gillispie's rebuilding project won't be quite so extensive, but after watching his team repeat the same mistakes that have plagued them all season, he knows Kentucky has a long way to go if it wants to be competitive in the SEC.

"We have to become a much tougher team," Gillispie said. "We have to become a much better defensive team."

Ramel Bradley led Kentucky with 27 points and Joe Crawford added 19 in his final game against Louisville, but the Wildcats shot just 41 percent and wore down in the second half against the bigger, deeper and more experienced Cardinals.

Jerry Smith had 17 points and Terrence Williams added 15 points and six rebounds for Louisville, which had five players in double figures and received significant contributions from whomever Pitino called off the bench.

"That's just like practice," Palacios said. "Everybody plays, everybody gets after it and when they come in, they're ready."

Louisville harassed Kentucky freshman forward Patrick Patterson all game, blocking several of his shots and muscling him out of the lane. Patterson finished with six points on 3-of-14 shooting and turned the ball over six times.

"They did a really good job being physical with him," Gillispie said.

The Cardinals trailed by one at the break, but took control with a dizzying 11 minutes at the start of the second half. Louisville reeled off eight straight points to grab the lead, forcing the Wildcats into turnovers and then racing the other way down the floor.

"The way we started the second half wasn't good at all because they jumped on us and we didn't hit back," Bradley said. "We didn't fight back and that was the turning point of the game."

After settling for jumpers in the first half, the Cardinals attacked the basket in the second. The result was easier shots or free throws, and the lead eventually ballooned to 62-40 with just over nine minutes left.

"This is the way we wanted to play all along," Williams said. "Palacios did everything for us. When we needed a basket, he got it for us."

Kentucky frantically trimmed the margin to 10 with 1:22 remaining, but Louisville made enough free throws down the stretch to put it away.

The game lacked a high level of play - the teams combined for 36 turnovers and 56 fouls - but not the intensity of years past.

Things briefly got ugly with just more than eight minutes left when Bradley intentionally fouled Louisville center David Padgett hard on a wide-open layup. Williams rose to Padgett's defense, exchanging heated words with Bradley before they were separated by officials. Williams received a technical foul before order was restored.

"He's my center and I was just protecting him like a brother," Williams said. "I wanted to be a shield for my brother."

Louisville played without leading rebounder Earl Clark, who missed the game for unspecified reasons. Clark wore an all-red jumpsuit and sat at the end of the bench during the game.

The Cardinals didn't need him against the undersized Wildcats. Louisville dominated the glass when it mattered, and had little trouble getting into the lane.

"We watched the 'Gladiator' movie two nights ago and it was my movie," Williams said. "Rupp Arena was the Coliseum. We were trying to survive and we did. The main message was we had to stick together. If we stick together, we will survive. That's what we did. We survived."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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