LEXINGTON - Rick Pitino's return trip to Rupp Arena as the University of Louisville basketball coach turned out much better than the first time as the No. 20 Cardinals upset Kentucky Saturday night.
The Wildcats, ranked No. 1 in the USA Today-ESPN coaches' poll, came out strong but couldn't hold on as U of L went on to a 65-56 win. It was UK's first loss in eight games and the second time this season the Cardinals have knocked off a top-ranked team. Louisville defeated then-No. 1 Florida Dec. 13.
"This is the best moment I've had with a team," Pitino said of his Louisville team, which last lost at Rupp Arena two years ago by 20 points. "It's my best win ever in terms of overcoming the elements, the climate."
That climate, according to Pitino, involved the Cardinals winning at Rupp against the nation's top-ranked team, and doing so on the heels of last year's 81-63 Cardinal win over the Wildcats at Freedom Hall.
"I'm stunned because there were four things I told the team we had to (overcome)," Pitino said. "First and foremost (UK) is a great basketball team. Second, they're the No. 1 team in the country and third it's a hostile crowd. Fourth, it's a revenge game for them."
Louisville did overcome all those things and then some. Stars guards Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean were held scoreless in the first half.
And Kentucky came out strong, leading by as many as 14 points in the first half.
But U of L's defense was exceptional as the Wildcats couldn't get anything going inside. Aside for UK hitting nine-three pointers, the Cardinal defense was nearly flawless.
For more on this story, see Sunday's State Journal.