Royal Flush: Kentucky deals Cards tough loss at home
Louisville, KY (Sports Network) – Patrick Sparks sank three foul shots with
6/10ths of a second remaining in the game, lifting ninth-ranked Kentucky to a
60-58 come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville at Freedom Hall.
Sparks finished with a game-high 25 points for the Wildcats (7-1), who
rebounded from a 16-point halftime deficit to squeak out the two-point win.
The comeback was the most points Kentucky ever overcame at the half.
“I was just trying to knock them down,” Sparks said of his free throws down
the stretch. “The win proved we have a lot of heart.”
The Wildcats, who got 12 points from Kelenna Azubuike, have won three straight
since their only loss of the season to North Carolina on December 4. Kentucky
also halted a two-game skid versus Louisville.
Larry O’Bannon paced the Cardinals (6-2) with 16 points. Juan Palacios chipped
in 11 points for Louisville, which had its six-game winning streak stopped.
Taquan Dean knocked down a three-pointer early in the second half and the
Cardinals claimed a 40-27 cushion. Kentucky eventually trimmed the lead to
single digits at 46-38 thanks to consecutive baskets by Rajon Rondo with less
than eight minutes to go.
The Wildcats continued to run and were down 48-44 later in the period courtesy
of back-to-back three-pointers by Sparks. Dean, however, countered with
consecutive threes and Louisville restored its double-digit lead at 54-44.
Sparks wasn’t done yet and answered with a trey and a three-point play in
succession, pulling the Wildcats within 54-50 with 2:55 remaining in the game.
Moments later, Ravi Moss buried a wide-open three and Kentucky trailed, 54-53.
With 1:27 on the clock, the Wildcats took their first lead since early in the
first half at 55-54 on Azubuike’s foul shots. Francisco Garcia’s layup with
54.5 seconds left gave Louisville a one-point lead, but Azubuike’s basket
seconds later put Kentucky back in front, 57-56.
O’Bannon then was sent to the line with 15.2 seconds left and the guard sank
both shots for a 58-57 Louisville edge. With less than five seconds to go,
Azubuike was triple-covered and passed to Sparks, who was fouled behind the
three-point line with 6/10ths on the clock. He then made all three shots from
the stripe to seal the two-point win.
“We showed a lot of heart,” Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith said after the
game. “What can I say about Patrick Sparks.”
After Kentucky scored the first five points of the game, the Cardinals ripped
off 13 straight for an eight-point lead. Ellis Myles ended the run with a
hard-fought layup underneath the basket with 11 minutes left in the half.
Palacios later converted a three-point play and added a two-handed jam in
succession, extending Louisville’s lead to 27-12 with 3:53 remaining in the
first half. The Cardinals then headed to the locker room with a seemingly
comfortable 32-16 lead. Palacios led all scorers at halftime with 11 points.