Louisville men’s basketball finishes its non-conference portion of the regular season against Kentucky Dec. 28 in Lexington at Rupp Arena. The 19-ranked Wildcats have lost two consecutive games to Utah and Ohio State heading into the rivalry matchup, but Cardinals’ coach Chris Mack thinks Kentucky is the most athletic team Louisville will play.
“They can make plays both on and off the ball,” Mack said. “They are extremely impressive. They strike in transition, they try to turn you over. They have a history of blocking shots. Going from defense to offense extremely quick.”
Ashton Hagans is Kentucky’s best playmaker as a point guard, leading the team with 13.9 points and 7.3 assists per game. Hagans has a team-high 23 steals for a defense that limits opponents to 58.4 points per game.
Mack calls Hagans one of the most disruptive point guard in the country. After Hagans, Kentucky has three other double-figure scorers. Tyrese Maxey averages 13.1 points, Nick Richards averages 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds and Immanuel Quickley averages 11.1 points per game.
Kentucky is still seeking to develop its perimeter shooting. The Wildcats are averaging 4.4 made 3-pointers per game and shooting 27.8 percent from behind the arc this season.
Louisville won’t alter its defense for a dribble-drive offense that looks to attack the paint. Mack doesn’t want to allow open perimeter shots.
“We don’t change based on who we play,” Mack said. “We are going to try to keep the ball in front of us and contest shots whether you’re a 50-percent 3-point shooter or 25-percent.”
Louisville hasn’t beaten Kentucky at Rupp Arena with John Calipari as the Wildcats’ head coach. Calipari is 6-0 against Louisville in Lexington.
Fifth-year senior forward Dwayne Sutton said the Cardinals need to be aggressive in the rivalry game.
“When you play UK it’s important that you take care of the ball, make smart decisions, but also be aggressive,” Sutton said.