LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Brandon Knight scored 25 points and Josh Harrellson added a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 11 Kentucky defeated No. 22 Louisville 78-63 on Friday.
The Wildcats (11-2) used their size to improve to 2-0 against their rivals since John Calipari became head coach. Kentucky dominated the smaller Cardinals (11-2) in the lane behind the stellar play of Harrellson, who took advantage while Louisville focused on Terrence Jones.
Harrellson and the Wildcats controlled the glass, particularly on the offensive end.
Preston Knowles led the Cardinals with 22 points and Chris Smith had 15 points and six rebounds. Louisville went through a long dry spell spanning the first and second halves, allowing the Wildcats to build an 18-point lead they would not relinquish.
A rare 3-pointer by Harrellson gave Kentucky a 44-26 lead early in the second half before the Cardinals finally sprang to life.
Louisville hit nine straight shots while slicing the lead to 59-49, but the Cardinals couldn't get any stops.
Whenever Kentucky appeared to be in even a hint of trouble, the ball would end up in the hands of Knight. The freshman star lacks predecessor John Wall's athleticism, but is a stellar floor general.
He ran Kentucky's dribble-drive with precision, pulling up for a 3-pointer (finishing 4 of 6) when the defense sagged off him or dishing it to a teammate after slicing through the lane.
Often the ball would make its way into the hands of Harrellson. The senior, a leftover from the Billy Gillispie-era, has blossomed this winter under Calipari.
While the Cardinals threw two or three bodies trying to limit Jones — who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds — it left Harrellson open. He dunked several times, hit an open jumper or two and was never rattled.
Heady territory for a player who had his Twitter privileges suspended by Calipari before the season began for venting frustration at the coach's alleged inability to offer him praise.
Calipari punished Harrellson by ordering an additional 30 minutes of conditioning before practice. It helped get the affable 6-foot-10 Harrellson into the best shape of his life. He's provided the Wildcats with the inside presence they've needed while heralded freshman center Enes Kanter waits to see if he'll be ruled eligible by the NCAA.
Kentucky shot 51 percent from the floor, turned it over just 13 times and never lost its poise during the series' first game inside Louisville's sparkling new downtown arena.
The Cardinals never got closer than nine points in the second half, with Jones effectively sealing it with a lay-up in traffic that gave Kentucky a 69-52 lead.
Both sides pledged a more genteel approach this time after last year's ugly 71-62 Kentucky win, a game featuring 51 fouls, five technicals and a couple of wrestling matches.
Things weren't nearly as chippy this time. There were no technicals and only one instance where referees stepped in between players. That doesn't mean it wasn't intense, at least early. Both teams played erratically in spots and out of control in others.
Yet there was little doubt once things settled about who was in control. Kentucky's size and talent rendered Louisville's smaller lineup ineffective.
Kentucky forward DeAndre Liggins swarmed the point guard, making it difficult for the Cardinal to get into any kind of offensive flow. If Louisville couldn't get a 3-pointer or a pick-and-roll, it stalled.
The Cardinals led by six early and Kentucky appeared to be in trouble when sixth man Doron Lamb went to the bench with two fouls in the first half. Instead, the Wildcats picked up the pace.
Kentucky outscored Louisville 29-12 over the final 14:10 of the half to take a 35-24 lead into the break. The Wildcats were on their way to their sixth straight win.