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Preview: No. 7 Louisville and No. 14 Kentucky clash in Bluegrass State holiday battle

The Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats will face off for the first time in two years, just in time for the holidays. See Kianna Smith and Emily Engstler go up against Rhyne Howard and Dre’una Edwards.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Sweet Sixteen-Oregon at Louisville
Kianna Smith
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bluegrass State will receive an early Christmas present as the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals and No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats face off in the Jimmy V Women’s Classic Sunday. This matchup will feature strength vs. strength coming to blows, as the Cardinals are allowing 46.4 points per game and the Wildcats are scoring 83.6 points per game.

In this in-state rivalry, Kentucky has the all-time series lead with 34 wins compared to just 21 for Louisville. The last time these two teams faced off was on Dec. 15, 2019 when the Cardinals edged the Wildcats 67-66.

Both teams are coming in hot, with Louisville currently on a seven-game winning streak and winning its games by an average of 23.2 points and Kentucky having won four out of its last five games and winning its games by an average of 24.7 points.

For Louisville, its top-notch defense will be anchored by senior forward Emily Engstler (10.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals, two blocks per game) and sophomore forward Olivia Cochran (6.5 points, five rebounds, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks per game). Other important performers for the Cardinals who will need to show up are redshirt senior guard Kianna Smith (11.5 points, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals per game) and sophomore guard Hailey Van Lith (10.3 points, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals per game).

Kentucky’s offense and defense will be shepherded by senior guard Rhyne Howard (19.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 3.4 steals, 1.1 blocks per game) and supplemented by redshirt junior forward Dre’una Edwards (18.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.3 blocks per game), senior guard Robyn Benton (13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.6 blocks per game) and freshman guard Jada Walker (11.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game). Two other players who will be charged with facilitation are sophomore guard Treasure Hunt (8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, two assists, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks per game) and senior guard Jazmine Massengill (6.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.8 blocks per game).

Game Information

No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats (6-2, 0-0 SEC) vs. No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (7-1, 0-0 ACC)

When: Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Louisville, KY

How to watch/listen: ESPN/UK Sports Network

Key to the matchup: Emily Engstler vs. Dreuna Edwards. Both players will need to dominate on the perimeter and in the post in order for their respective teams to win. The two of them are able to score, grab rebounds and create turnovers without exerting too much energy on either side of the court.