If a punch in the face is what the top-ranked University of Kentucky basketball team needed, as coach John Calipari said this week, fourth-ranked rival Louisville was happy to oblige on Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.The two undefeated teams bloodied each other – quite literally, in UK point guard Tyler Ulis’ case – during a slugfest that featured few easy buckets and tension from tipoff to buzzer. But Kentucky took every shot and delivered blows back and finally pulled away late for a 58-50 victory.“That was a punch in the mouth,” Calipari said. “Everyone has made this like the end-all game and these young kids came in here and they performed. They weren’t rattled and they stayed focused.” In doing so, the Cats (13-0) might’ve cleared the tallest hurdle remaining in the regular season. They’ve now beaten five teams that were ranked in at least one of the major polls, including three in the current Top 10. Talk of a perfect season will get louder after UK won its road opener for the first time in five seasons. UNDER PRESSURE: Freshmen come through for Wildcats INSTANT ANALYSIS: Takeaways from courtside at the KFC Yum! Center WHAT WE LEARNED: Adam Himmelsbach breaks down UK’s win GAME REWIND: Tweets, videos, analysis as it happenedBut the Cardinals (11-1) made the visitors earn it. The Wildcats turned it over 10 times in the first half and shot just 37 percent before the break. Every bucket came at a price, which was pain.“I didn’t just get punched,” said freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “I probably caught some hooks and some haymakers. Good thing I was watching ‘Tyson’ last night, so I learned how to handle it.“But we needed this. We needed this badly. We haven’t had a game like this in a while.”Not since UK’s exhibition loss to the Dominican Republic national team this summer, in Towns’ estimation. Louisville, down as many as a dozen in the final five minutes, managed a moral victory in becoming the first collegiate team to lose by single digits against these Cats. UK’s lead was only four at halftime, and even after the Cats quickly stretched that margin to eight after the break, Louisville surged. With Kentucky star Willie Cauley-Stein sidelined because of foul trouble, the Cards cut the deficit to two with 8:48 remaining. But that’s when the smallest player in a brutal game took over. Ulis, the 5-foot-9 freshman who took an elbow that opened a cut above his right eye and sent blood streaming down his face in the first half, calmly dissected U of L’s smothering defense.“They played rough,” Ulis said, but “we were ready.” Play VideoPlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration Time 0:00Loaded: 0%0:00Progress: 0%0:00 Progress: 0%Stream TypeLIVERemaining Time -0:00 Playback Rate1ChaptersChaptersdescriptions off, selectedDescriptionssubtitles off, selectedSubtitlescaptions settings, opens captions settings dialogcaptions off, selectedCaptionsAudio TrackFullscreenThis is a modal window. The Video Cloud video was not found. Error Code: VIDEO_CLOUD_ERR_VIDEO_NOT_FOUND Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis (left) drives against UofL’s Terry Rozier (right) on Saturday at the KFC YUM! Center. UofK won 58-50. (By David Lee Hartlage, Special to the C-J) Dec. 27, 2014. UP NEXT: OLE MISS AT NO. 1 KENTUCKY7 p.m., Jan. 6, Rupp ArenaTV: SEC Radio: WHAS-840 and WAKY-103.5 Session ID: 2020-09-17:128321a62ccf8e676e9c3e8 Player ID: videojs-brightcove-player-936063-3962601421001 OK Close Modal DialogCaption Settings DialogBeginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsDefaultsDoneClose Modal DialogThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.He swished a 3-pointer and drained a pull-up jumper to key a 10-2 run that finally broke the game open. Ulis finished with a team-high 14 points and although he had just two assists, he made even fewer mistakes. While starting point guard Andrew Harrison had six turnovers, Ulis and fellow freshman guard Devin Booker had none in 54 combined minutes.Ulis scored a dozen of his points after halftime, looking like a bandaged boxer but dancing circles around the Cardinals. He required three stitches after the game.“You’ve got to leave it all on the floor. Tyler Ulis always does that,” Towns said. “He almost gave his eye today for the game. When you have a person like that, it motivates all of us to see that if he can take it, we can take it.” Louisville made one final run at UK and had a chance to slash the lead to five with 1:32 to go when Wayne Blackshear was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. But he made only one free throw and the Wildcats finished the job. They held the Cardinals to 15-of-58 shooting and trailed just once, 13-12, for a total of 94 seconds.New CardsHQ and CatsHQ fan apps launchedAfter the lowest-scoring Kentucky-Louisville game since 1922, and after seeing his Cards manage only one assist to go with nine turnovers, coach Rick Pitino called the Cats “one of the greatest defensive teams I’ve seen in my 40 years.” That begs the question: Can anyone else push this Kentucky team to the brink in the regular season? Only Southeastern Conference games remain, and the league doesn’t have another team in the Top 25. And on Saturday, the Wildcats won despite Cauley-Stein producing just five points and six rebounds. They beat a top-five team on the road even when starting guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison combined to make just 3 of 16 shots. “Oh, we’ll be challenged,” Calipari swore afterward, adding that he isn’t worried about his team thinking this was the final test. “There was some disappointment. Willie and Andrew were disappointed in how they played. Aaron wasn’t exactly happy about how he played either.”But Kentucky’s coach, now 7-1 against Pitino since coming to Lexington, admitted he wakes up every day “whistling and skipping” because he has a team talented enough to overwhelm, deep enough to exhaust and unselfish enough to share.Then Saturday proved these Cats are also tough enough to take a punch. Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTucker_CJ.