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December 24, 2012It's that time of the year in the Commonwealth. Just days after Christmas brings family and friends together, the looming Kentucky and Louisville game will undoubtedly divide households and friendships, at least until Sunday.
Fans might have been looking ahead to the UK vs. U of L game before the two teams' games this past weekend. Louisville fans even chanted "Beat UK" during the final minutes of the Cardinals' blowout win over Western Kentucky on Saturday.
And after the Wildcats defeated Marshall 82-54 on Saturday, the players and John Calipari began answering questions about their rivals 70 miles to the west.
Kyle Wiltjer called the game "a huge rivalry with the fans," but Calipari jokingly acted surprised when asked about the Cards.
"We're playing Louisville?" Calipari said. "Whoa, that's going to be a hard game."
But Calipari and his players remain adamant that their focus will be on themselves, trying to become the best team they can be heading into the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday.
"Believe me when I tell you I'm not worried about anybody we're playing," Calipari said. "I'm worried about my team. If we go in and Louisville is way better than us, we move on to the next game."
And according to the polls, U of L is better. For the first time since Calipari has been at UK, the Cards will be the higher-ranked team. Louisville is No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and the Cats remain unranked.
Kentucky has won four straight against Louisville and seven of the last nine. Calipari is 4-0 against the Cardinals at UK.
Louisville's lone loss this season came to a Duke team that also beat Kentucky. The Blue Devils beat the Cats in the second game of the season, 75-68. The Cards fell to Duke in the Battle of Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving weekend 76-71.
But both U of L and UK were without starters, the Cards missing center Gorgui Dieng and the Cats without guard Ryan Harrow
Dieng is questionable for Saturday's game but with or without Dieng, Calipari said it will be a hard game for his team to win.
"We've gotten better. Is that good enough?" Calipari said. "I don't know. They've got a veteran team. They've got everybody playing well. They're beating everybody by 30 and 40.
"Hard game for us."
Not that all the Cats would know. Some of them haven't watched their intrastate rival this season.
"No," Harrow said. "I don't watch them."
Freshman Alex Poythress has seen Louisville play and realizes the challenges that face UK.
"I've seen a couple games," Poythress said. "They're a good team, very athletic team, well-coached team. They have great guards, they have size and it'll be a great game."
Louisville's backcourt is led by a senior and junior, where UK is much younger, Harrow being a sophomore and Archie Goodwin only playing in 11 collegiate games as a freshman.
Harrow isn't worried about stopping U of L's veteran guards. His focus, like Calipari's, is on his own team.
"We just going to play our game," Harrow said. "That's all I have to say about Louisville's guards. As long as we play our game, we'll be alright."