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Wildcats' 27-game win streak ends

12/28/2003

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky's yearlong regular-season winning
streak is over and Louisville has started a streak of its own
against the Wildcats.

No. 20 Louisville limited Kentucky (No. 1 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) to one field goal over the final 5:47 in a 65-56 victory Saturday, snapping the Wildcats'
27-game regular-season winning streak.

Otis George had 13 points and eight rebounds for Louisville
(7-1), which won at Rupp Arena for the first time since 1997-98, a
season in which Kentucky won the NCAA title. The Cardinals have won
seven straight since a season-opening loss to Iowa.

Kentucky (7-1) had not lost a regular-season game since last
Dec. 28, when the Wildcats fell 81-63 at Louisville.

"Kentucky is a great basketball team that just happened to lose
tonight," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We were very
fortunate to win.

"We had that special moment that happens once in a lifetime."

Pitino is 2-1 against Kentucky, a team he coached for eight
seasons and guided to the 1996 national title. After the game,
Pitino and current Kentucky coach Tubby Smith -- one of Pitino's
former assistants -- hugged at midcourt.

"This is just a great feeling," Louisville's Luke Whitehead
said. "Coach Pitino already told us how much this game means to
him. He said it meant a lot to us, him and the city and it just
makes us so happy."

The Cardinals are 20-1 in December under Pitino the last three
seasons, with the only loss coming to Kentucky.

Larry O'Bannon and Whitehead each added 11 points and leading
scorer Francisco Garcia had all of his 10 points in the second half
for Louisville, which went 15-of-16 from the free-throw line.

Louisville, which trailed by five points at halftime, shot 54.2
percent from the field in the second half. Kentucky shot 33.3
percent after halftime and 33.9 percent for the game, after making
nine of its first 18 shots.

Louisville players attributed that change in fortune to strong
defense and rebounding. The Cardinals outrebounded Kentucky 38-30.

"We knew coming into the game that we would have to rebound and
limit their running game," Louisville's Taquan Dean said. "We won
this game by limiting their fast breaks and offensive rebounding.
Otis showed how aggressive he is. He really played great. He'd dive
on concrete for a basketball if he had to."

Kentucky led 49-46 after a basket by Erik Daniels with 5:47
left, and two free throws by Kelenna Azubuike with 4:12 left gave
the Wildcats their last lead, 51-50.

Louisville's Kendall Dartez scored 10 seconds later, and Dean
followed with a 3-pointer before George hit two free throws to give
Louisville a 57-51 lead.

A four-point play by Gerald Fitch pulled Kentucky within two,
but Garcia made a 3-pointer with Azubuike in his face to put the
Cardinals ahead 60-55. Kentucky missed three 3-point attempts in
the final minute.

Azubuike and Cliff Hawkins each had 12 points for Kentucky.
Fitch, who entered the game averaging a team-high 19.1 points, did
not score in the first half and finished with nine points on
3-of-12 shooting.

"I'm disappointed in our play," Smith said. "We seemed to
once again not play with the poise and the patience that we needed
to."

Kentucky jumped to leads of 12-2 and 24-10, but the Wildcats
closed the half by making just two of their last 14 shots.

The Cardinals pulled within 27-26 before two free throws by
Brandon Stockton and a basket by Antwain Barbour gave Kentucky a
five-point halftime lead.

"We took a lot of bad shots," Smith said. "That's the same
thing we preached before. We reverted back to things we were doing
in early games that I kept harping on. It becomes contagious. It
wasn't one guy, it was everybody."

Both teams entered the game ranked, the first time that happened
since Dec. 31, 1996.

Louisville's win also ended a strange streak -- the winner of the
annual Kentucky-Louisville football game had lost the basketball
game between the schools each year since the football rivalry was
resumed in 1994. Louisville won this year's football game 40-24.