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December 29, 2013
Notes: Harrison comes through; crowd boosts Cats
He doesn't care what's being said off the court. Or if he does he's not telling the media.
But Andrew Harrison does care about winning. And he wasn't about to let his reputation for pouting be a factor in Kentucky's game against Louisville on Saturday.
So when the going got rough, Harrison got tough. There was no pouting, no head-hanging, as he helped power No. 18 UK to a 73-66 win against No. 6 U of L.
"That's just showing how much heart this team has," Harrison said. "I know we get criticized a lot for being young and body language and stuff like that, but we knew we could win this game, and going against a great team like Louisville, we knew we had to bring it."
Harrison brought it to the tune of 18 points -- 11 in the second half -- to help the Cats pull away, then hang on late.
"Now, what I liked when the game was on the line and the game was in the balance, he made good plays," UK coach John Calipari said. "How about the pass he makes to Alex (Poythress)? He could have tried to shoot that. That dunk basically put it to 10 and kind of put it out of reach."
Most of the emotion Harrison displayed was positive. Harrison celebrated with teammates. He screamed after big plays. He looked like a different player than the one who's been dogged much of this season for his body language.
"I try not to (pay attention to critics)," Harrison said. "I try to stay off Twitter and all that stuff, but I mean, hey -- it comes with the territory."
He does, however, pay attention to perceived slights.
Though Harrison tried to downplay the suggestion that he was motivated by pregame talk about Louisville's superior guards -- "We just try to win the game," he said with a grin -- at least one teammate said that he and brother Aaron Harrison got some fuel for their fire from that chatter.
"They were real motivated," Poythress said. "It was a great matchup for the guards. They were going at us and we were going at them but all in all it was a great matchup."
And Andrew responded.
"He grew up a lot," Poythress said. "I'm proud of Andrew. He stepped up to the plate and made good plays down the stretch so you know, that was good for us."
But at the end of the day, no matter how well he played, he just wanted a win. The Cats came up close, but ultimately short, against Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina.
He wouldn't let that happen against the Cardinals.
"He didn't want to lose this game," James Young said. "This was a real big game for him, and he stepped up. He had Russ (Smith) guarding him, which is a good defender, and he knew he had to step up his game. And that's what he did."
UK has lost three games this season, all away from Rupp Arena. In fact, Calipari has only lost two games at home since he's been the Cats' head man.
Against the defending NCAA champions, UK's crowd willed the Cats to a win.
The 24,396 fans in attendance showed up early and stayed around late to sing "My Old Kentucky Home."
"Crowd was here an hour before the game, these people are crazy," Calipari said. "Here an hour before the game, pushing an hour, hey give me my 16 inches, move the other way. I mean, it was crazy. I mean, it's nuts. But it's great and I'm hoping they it enjoy it."
It's unlikely anyone wearing blue left Rupp Arena without a grin on their face.
"Everybody was involved," Young said. "The crowd was really loud. They brought a lot of energy to us. I think that really helped us."
Despite being dominant at home, Poythress wants to see this atmosphere the rest of the season to continue that dominance.
"Oh it was crazy," Poythress said. "I wish it was like that every game. Hopefully the fans will be like that when we play our next game whenever that is. But (the) atmosphere was incredible, especially for a rivalry game."
Kentucky's win Saturday was its first against a ranked opponent, but it wasn't for lack of opportunity.
And UK's 0-for-3 start against top-notch teams might have been a factor in Saturday's outcome.
While Kentucky lost to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina away from Rupp Arena, Louisville had played a considerably softer schedule. The Cardinals were facing their second ranked team of the season, having lost 93-84 to North Carolina in the Hall of Fame Tipoff in Uncasville, Conn.
"One of the things I told (the team) prior to the game, what prepared us for this game was playing Michigan State, playing Providence, playing Boise (State), playing Baylor, playing North Carolina on the road, playing Belmont," Calipari said. "That prepared us for this game. And so as much as I hate to say, every game I'm coaching is like a war, this team needed that."
The numbers don't stand out.
Dominique Hawkins had one point in his 15 minutes of action against Louisville. He didn't record an assist and missed the only shot he took.
But the freshman from Richmond, Ky., made his presence felt, grabbing three rebounds and giving the Wildcats energy off the bench in his first-ever Kentucky-Louisville game.
"Dominique went in and made two or three plays just by hustle next to the goal," Calipari said. "Now, why aren't my 6 6 guards doing that? He's in there, just fighting like crazy, and it's a great lesson for us. You know, because if we can get our whole team playing that way, we become pretty good."
Two of Hawkins' rebounds were offensive, and he pursued loose balls with the sort of reckless abandon that his teammates have come to count on in practice.
"Dominique has the heart of a lion," Andrew Harrison said. "He's a monster. I mean, at practice he brings it every possession. He's a great player, and I love him like a brother."