LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Notre Dame blitzed Kentucky in the first half but then had to desperately hold on to nip the Wildcats, 64-63 on Saturday at Rupp Arena.
The Irish offense clicked beautifully during the game’s first 20 minutes as Notre Dame built a huge lead and led UK at halftime, 48-26. It was the largest Kentucky halftime deficit for a home game in school history. Notre Dame put together a 19-0 run during a first half spree that saw the visitors open up a 33-9 advantage. Nate Laszewski , who tallied 21 points for the Irish, was instrumental during that first half barrage.
”We talked about growing up and getting one of these,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “And we knew as good as we were in the first half offensively, that there was going to be a run coming. And for us to hold the run off and play enough defense to escape, I’m really proud of our group, and I think it’s something we can build on.
Bray was correct as Kentucky hit stride and put a frantic run together in that second half. UK’s Brandon Boston knocked down a trey to cut the Irish lead down to 15 points. Later, Olivier Sarr got hot for the Cats. Sarr, who tallied a game-high 22 points. scored with 4:44 to play to trim the Notre Dame lead to 55-51.
With 1:30 to go and after a UK steal, Terrence Clarke scored on a layup and Kentucky was down a point.
Then with :41 seconds left, Sarr connected on a jumper to again leave the Cats a point shy 64-63. In the game’s closing seconds, Sarr would miss a jumper as time expired and the Irish had nailed down the victory.
Losing coach, John Calipari hopes his team’s second half rally is something to build upon.
“Look, there’s hope now. If that’s who we are those 20 minutes, there’s hope’” said the UK head coach. “Alright, now we’ve got to play 40. If some guys shouldn’t be starting, they won’t start. You can’t start man. You fumble balls, you can’t come up with it...no. If it’s somebody has to play less minutes, they’re playing less. Is what it is, but liked the fact that we came back, and we toughed, and we did some good stuff.”
The 1-4 Wildcats next game is next Saturday afternoon in Cleveland against UCLA.