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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Beaten but Better

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Two weeks ago today, Louisville and the University of Kentucky locked horns in the annual Dream Game. Normally and as is custom, anyone with a pulse who writes or blogs for a living (or in my case, for fun) would have immediately put their thoughts and opinions onto paper and/or social media for others to read following the end of the game. I, however, decided to take a different route this year. Win or lose, I decided before the game was played that I would wait a few weeks and then revisit the outcome and all things leading up to it. You see, there’s too much emotion and knee jerk reaction involved for me personally to recount a game of this magnitude rationally. But now that the smoke has cleared, the bird has been flipped (no, not Louie the Cardinal mascot) and both teams have since gotten a few more games under their respective belts, I now take to this blog to discuss my FIVE key takeaways from the aforementioned Battle of the Bluegrass.

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🏀 Damion Lee is everything UofL fans hoped he would be, and more. After dismantling UK’s defense with a showcase of offensive skills not seen by a UofL player in Rupp since Francisco Garcia, I’d be willing to go on record and say Lee might be the most gifted offensive player Pitino has had during his stint at UofL. And don’t get it twisted, he’s had a good number of guys who could flat ball out with the rock in their hands.

Sure, it was totally deflating to see Lee’s last second game winning 3pt attempt go awry, but his performance left me full of optimism when I think about the Cards in mid to late March.

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🏀 Louisville made mistakes against Kentucky, but they didn’t beat themselves. Aside from a mini meltdown to finish the first half, the Cards played within themselves and handled the immense pressure of playing in Rupp Arena quite well.

I certainly felt there were a number of plays that Lee got hit while trying to score and the officials swallowed their whistles.

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But to be frank, the zebras played a minimal role in this game down the stretch as UK won this slugfest from behind the arc and it came from from distances (any location to Timbuktu) & individuals that I am positive Rick Pitino was ok with based on his team’s scouting report on the Cats……

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🏀 Louisville is a legit Top 20 team. I get the montage that any team on any given night can pull an upset in college basketball – especially given the parity that exists this season. After pushing a top 5 Michigan State team to the brink a month ago, many wanted to believe that UofL was the real deal. But, duplication is key to winning over others and by coming back from a 16 point second half deficit on the road in Lexington, the Cards proved to most naysayers and sceptics alike that they will be a team to watch well into March. Most teams wilt in Rupp Arena. UofL rose to the challenge.

🏀 Kentucky fans’ obsession with all things Rick Pitino has reached an all-time level of immeasurable absurdity. Sure, some of the ire and negative attention was self created w/the Karen Sypher soap opera. Couple that w/the recent allegations of strippers in Minardi Hall & I could actually give BBN a hall pass. But the venom and hatred from the bulk of UK fans focused on Pitino makes one wonder if they ever spend time discussing their own coach and players. The newest topic of discussion: Finger Gate 2015.Did Pitino or did he not “flip off” a heckling UK fan when leaving the floor following the game against the Cats? Video evidence remains inconclusive (unless you have Photoshop).

Inconclusive bird flippage…..

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Conclusive bird flippage…..

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The only finger(s) I look for…..

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Here’s what’s for certain: the debate as to whether Coach P did or did not give the finger to that fan is apparently more important to many UK fans as opposed to how Skal Labissiere could manage to score only two points in the biggest game of the season thus far for KY.

🏀 Chemistry is essential for success, and this Louisville team has it. They are fun to watch, easy to rally behind and incredibly likeable. Players seem to genuinely care about one another and it shows in how unselfish they play. I know, I know….who cares how they interact as long as they win games, right? Well, this Louisville team, amid a nationally recognized ongoing scandal & investigation, is carrying a monkey on it’s back of epic proportions….and they are doing it in a remarkable fashion. No doubt, having the upperclassmen’s leadership via Lee and Lewis is irreplaceable. Check mate for Coach Pitino when it comes to filling the gaps for a young inexperienced team that would be drowning right now w/out the two 5th year seniors.

So following another painful loss to it’s arch nemesis, the Cards have found a way to maintain a high level of play by beating a pesky Wake Forest team and winning a big road game at NC State. You see, losing to Kentucky doesn’t mean your season is over. It simply means that despite being  beaten, you still got better.

GO CARDS – Beat Clemson

Louisville v Samford

 

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