I bet you forgot how much you hate Cincinnati, am I right? UK and West Virginia suck so much of the oxygen from the room it's easy to forget how loathsome a rival the Bearcats can be. Kudos to them on creating a hostile environment, even on TV it was easy to see there was an edge to that crowd. And between the "Kar-en Sy-pher" chants and harassing native son, Chane Behanan, all night long, I'd say the I-75 rivalry is alive and well. Remember this feeling for a day of reckoning when they travel here next year.
Rick Pitino gets grief (some from me) for not diagramming plays in crunchtime. So I want to tip my cap with equal verve. The play he drew to spring Kuric for an open look from 3 to level the score was brilliant. There was some debate over the wisdom of putting it in the hands of an ice-cold shooter, but I disagree wholeheartedly.
Not only was Kuric the right one to shoot the ball, I was certain it was going in. On this team, that's a welcome shot 100 out of 100 times.
Chane Behanan's three-attempt was when things officially started getting flung in CL headquarters.
That shot, a frustration, a may-as-well-cause-nothing-else-is-working shot, was when it really dawned on me that I may just be deluding myself waiting for things to "click" for this team offensively. Unless Wayne Blackshear heals and steps into a larger role, there's just not enough firepower. Peyton Siva had one of his best games all year and shouldered the entire burden of getting something going for his team. But when he's working his ass off to penetrate and create space, only to dish to Swopshire for another clang, you realize that for Louisville to take the next step, it's going to have to start on the recruiting trail.
Speaking of clangs, what was up with those rims? It sounded like a gong was getting hammered with every miss.
I loved the emotion that Gorgui played with. It is sorely needed on a team with stoic leaders like Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric. He also quietly outplayed Yancy Gates. You may not realize that with the announcers going overboard with every physical move by Gates, "He's abusing Gorgui out there". Gates is a load, no doubt, but if you payed attention it was clear Dieng was getting the better of him more times than not. The announcers are just more scared of Yancy, perhaps for good reason.
The officiating is a joke, has been all year, ain't gonna change. It's not the reason we lost.
UK Sweatshirt Guy embodies the reason everyone hates UK. It's not jealousy, it's that one little moment you know he had when he got home, smiling smugly to himself, "You won't beeleeve what I did honay". Somewhere in that small emotion is the entire reason.
I don't think UofL will survive the first weekend of the tournament if they do not start defending the three-point line better. When the opponent is hot, do something, anything to get them out of their confidence and rhythm. Scrap the 2-3 and go man-to-man, go 3-2 zone. "Well, they were hot tonight" isn't an excuse when you're not doing anything to cool them.
Mick Cronin doesn't pull off the Johnny Cash look very well.
The game against Syracuse just took on tremendous importance. Not that we aren't capable of losing to either Pitt or USF, but a win also isn't going to impress anyone, either. It's going to dawn on the Selection Committee at some point that the Cards are lacking in the quality wins department. And, heaven forbid we do drop a game against Pitt or USF, our seeding could really go into a freefall.
Even more importantly, from a psychological standpoint it seems Louisville needs to slay one dragon to boost its confidence heading into March. It's gotta be Syracuse.
We all knew that traveling to Cincinnati was going to be a tough test. And you don't have to be Hubie Brown to analyze this one. When your leading scorer, your clutch performer, puts up an O-fer from the field it's amazing the game was even that close.
What is so deflating about these losses, I think, is that they seem to provide a premonition of how we're going to get sent home in the tournament. Long scoring droughts, an inability to get in transition, and inexplicable defensive lapses, whether it's not closing out to defend the 3 or getting bullied in the paint.
After most of our losses this year, including last night, I still felt we were the metaphysical "better team". But they don't give prizes for that, and the problems that prevent this team from consistency seem to be going uncorrected. And we're running out of time to get it right.
Check back throughout the day as we break it down. Sigh. Go Cards.
In case you were living on the Moon, here's a recap of the infamous UC-Xavier melee. I'm not judging, I fully believe the "Cousins' Forearm" game could have devolved into a similar scene had one or two players reacted differently in those snap-judgement moments.
Dan Wetzel examines UC's rebound from the incident here.
The title of Terrence Williams entertaining web series that looks into his daily life is the exact same mantra the Cardinals need to embrace in these final four games of the regular season. Stop me if you've heard this before, but tonight Louisville faces another capable basketball team fighting for its tournament life.
Cinci guard Sean Kilpatrick said this about the matchup: "It ain’t about Louisville. We’ve got to win every game from here on out. There can’t be no slack-offs."
The Bearcats are currently projected as a #12 seed in the Dance, though Mick Cronin has done an admirable job convincing his unit they are on the outside looking in, and that every game requires a do-or-die mentality.
More than anything that's what I want to see tonight, a Louisville team that has adopted an attitude that this time of year demands. I'm not speaking about effort so much, this team will always play hard, but it is prone to unfocused stretches of play. And some of the quotes I've heard after past contests, DePaul as the most recent example, to the effect of "We knew we were going to make our run" do cause me concern.
It's a fine line between being unflappable and being complacent, and being confident in your ability to comeback is all well and good...until you don't. Tonight, in a hostile environment against a determined rival, we'll learn a lot about whether these Cards are full of "fake juice", as Charlie Strong would say, or if they're reaching a level of concentration that can take us deep into March. To counter Kilpatrick, it ain't about Cincinnati.
I can't lie, a well-executed title post in dangerously high on my reasons for getting out of bed in the morning. Here's UofL center fielder Adam Engel's spectacular grab yesterday in windy conditions at Jim Patterson stadium. The Cards downed EKU in the home opener, 7-2.
ESPN blogger Andrea Adelson examines the new, up-for-grabs, Big East in the wake of West Virginia's departure. Frankly, I liked our chances even with West Viriginia in-conference, but so much the better. There's a lot to chew your fingernails on regarding our conference future, but there's no denying that where we are, where The Train is currently stationed, that big goals and achievements are still ripe for plucking in the upcoming year.
There are many fine Charlie Strong quotes in the article that speak to that very idea. When Strong (publicly) says that it matters not what conference we're in, that we're forging ahead regardless, he's so damn good I'm sorely tempted to believe him.
A current ESPN poll highlights the Oakland Raiders franchise tag dilemma. Darren McFadden is, of course, their featured runner. But he's injury-prone, and in a rush-heavy offense, Michael Bush saw his workload and therefore his worth increase last season.
Bush is a free agent, as is young safety Tyvon Branch. Only one can be "franchised", so the poll asks its readers to chime in on which is the better prospect. Somewhat surprisingly, Branch is ahead by a sizeable margin (not that it matters one bit).
This article from ProFootballZone suggests that Bush is done in Oakland. If so, there will be certainly be a lot of interest in him on the open market, and it would be nice to see Bush as the featured back somewhere. Some believe the AFC West rival Broncos will jump to sign him, where he would join Louisville standout Elvis Dumervil, and drag Cardinal Nation into Tebowmania whether it wants to or not. Stay tuned.
Had a few things gone differently I'm not sure the Cards could have recovered from a loss. The indignity of a defeat to lowly DePaul, with more than 7,000 Louisville fans on the road to make them feel welcome, would have been too much to bear. But somewhere amidst the chaos on the court, the Cards found just enough control to survive. Our pride is still intact, we now have a nice narrative about coming a long way since Providence, and we're still in fine shape to seize a seed that can spring a tourney-run. I'm not sure what to make of these Cardinals, I don't think anyone does, but they sure as hell aren't boring. Other thoughts on the victory over DePaul...
For the life of me I cannot figure out what the gameplan was for that contest. Just a day after Pitino talked about how the 52-51 offensive eyesore was exactly what UofL wanted against Syracuse, and then we come out and try to race the Blue Demons to 100, a team that thrives on that kind of madcap action. Playing that way dug us a 17-point deficit, but perhaps it was decided it was also the only way to come back. That's the only sense I can make of it.
Kyle Kuric is alright in my book, I'll have you know.
There's no way we win the game without Russ Smith. After Kuric, he's the best scorer on the team. But we need a new plan for when Peyton Siva, who simply cannot play the sport without fouling, gets sent to the bench. Russ was predictably out of control when he took over point guard duties and any hopes of him "getting it", as Pitino says, is a waste of breath. It's just not in his DNA to slow down.
He had four turnovers to his four assists, but when you rewatch you see that he had at least twice as many turnover "coulda beens". His method of breaking a trap, kind of throwing the ball forward and leaping through the defenders to retrieve it just isn't sustainable. Don't get me wrong I love the Russ Smith Show as much as anyone, just not at point guard (yes, loyal/asshole reader, I once felt differently). I think enough evidence has been collected to suggest Bullet would be a better option to bring more stability to the offense. Keep whomeverwhoeverwhichever the Smith playing better basketball that night, Chris or Russ, at the 2-guard in these situations.
DePaul, if you want to stop being regarded as the laughing stock of the conference, you might want to work on the whole "getting the lights on so the game can start on time" thing.
Peyton Siva had a very strong game, minus his penchant for fouling. He cracked me up though the way he tried to gauge and goad his shot in after popping from the corner. He looked like me trying to sink a 25-foot putt at Cherokee.
Eric Crawford broke down some of the extra wrinkles that UofL added to the halfcourt offense. They're welcome additions, anything to relieve some of the weight from Siva's shoulders is a good thing in my opinion. But execution really wasn't what that game was about. It was more like weary boxers throwing haymakers in the 15th round, reacting and reaching, doing anything to survive.
The Blue Demons made mincemeat out of our 2-3 zone. I really hope that was an aberration.
On the other hand, I really like the decision to overextend on the last possession in regulation to deny DePaul a chance at a game-winning 3. Though it essentially gave them a tying bucket, the way that game was going it was well worth it.
Okay, Coach, perhaps you're right. Wayne Blackshear isn't quite ready to dominate. After two quick scores, Louisville fans present and at home were rejoicing, his Era had arrived. Then he cooled and turned the ball over and was smartly taken out of the game. I do like Rick's admonition to him afterwards, though. You better keep shooting, son. And as strange as it sounds, his first-half points were crucial for keeping it a "manageable" 15-17 point deficit instead of a 20-25 game-ender.
This Chris Smith character, I'm really searching for a word to describe his game. Solid? Let's go with solid.
I understand this was a kitchen-sink game when strategy quickly flew out the window, but 32 attempts from 3 and only 8 field goal attempts for Gorgui is the biggest stat that needs to be corrected.