- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Louisville has taken two ranked teams down to the wire this season, only to come up short both times.

The 16th-ranked Cardinals had a chance for the winning shot at No. 12 Kentucky on Saturday, but Damion Lee’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer was well off in a 75-73 loss. Louisville’s previous loss against a ranked opponent was a 71-67 setback at then-No. 3 Michigan State on Dec. 2.

“We fight, but we have to end that fight with the end of the game,” said Lee, who led all scorers with 27 points. “Our two losses were against two great teams and the games were both pretty balanced, but we came out with losses. For us, it is finishing and executing later on down the stretch, because in ACC play, we are going to go up against some hostile teams.”

Kentucky (10-2) led by 16 points early in the second half before Louisville came almost all the way back. The Cardinals (11-2) had a chance to tie or take the lead with less than a minute left but Trey Lewis was called for traveling.

The Wildcats then committed a shot-clock violation to give Louisville one more chance.

“The first half, we gave up a lot of baskets, a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of 3s,” Lee said. “We weren’t really playing our game. We came back. We fought back. It was a very, very close game against a great team. We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

Kentucky got 21 points from point guard Tyler Ulis to give John Calipari his 200th victory as the Wildcats’ coach.

“It was a great team performance and really a good win,” Ulis said. “We played with a lot more enthusiasm from the start.”

Alex Poythress scored 14 points for Kentucky. Dominique Hawkins added 13 and Jamal Murray had 12.

Kentucky’s second-leading scorer, Isaiah Briscoe, sat out after hurting his ankle during pregame warmups. Freshman guard Charles Matthews started in place of Briscoe, who averages 11.5 points, but it was Hawkins who gave the Wildcats a spark in his absence. Hawkins hit a clutch 3-pointer and made two free throws in the final three minutes to keep the Wildcats in front.

In the latest installment of the rivalry, Calipari and Rick Pitino both received technical fouls late in the first half.

Poythress scored six of the Wildcats’ first eight points to open the second half, stretching their lead to 52-36 with 17:49 remaining.

Twice after Louisville pulled within two in the last five minutes, Kentucky hit a big 3-pointer - one by Ulis and another from Hawkins.


Pitino didn’t meet with reporters after the game, with assistant Ralph Willard taking his place. A school spokesman said Pitino was doing a radio interview at the time. Pitino has skipped postgame news conferences on occasion this season.

“I think guys did a great job of coming back competing in the second half,” Willard said. “(Kentucky) hit some really, really tough shots that ordinarily you would say those are the kind of shots you want them to take in that situation. They made them and you’ve got to give them credit.”

A fan posted a fuzzy video after the game of Pitino making a gesture toward the crowd as he headed toward the locker room. The spokesman said Pitino held up his index finger, sarcastically indicating, “We’re No. 1.”


Kentucky: C Skal Labissiere, who started the first 11 games, came off the bench and finished with two points and three rebounds. … Calipari is the second-fastest coach in Division I history to reach 200 wins at a school, hitting the mark in his 240th game at Kentucky. Only Clair Bee, who earned 200 wins in his first 231 games at Long Island University from 1931-41, did it faster.

Louisville: Pitino had a 6-2 record against the Cardinals while coaching the Wildcats. He is 5-12 against Kentucky. Louisville has not won in Lexington since an 89-75 victory in 2008. … Lewis scored 15 points.


Kentucky hosts Ole Miss on Saturday.

Louisville hosts Wake Forest on Jan. 3.

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