This was pitiful. Or maybe atrocious is the proper term. To me, it was embarrassing.
The Cards travled up I-71 to face a mediocre Cincinnati team and apparently, thought the Bearcats would just roll over and give them a victory. Reality set in quickly for Louisville as Mick Cronin’s team played more physical and with more energy for the entire game. As a result, the Cards are coming home with a 63-54 defeat and their 7th loss.
To say this was tough to watch would be an understatement. The ‘Nati had their foot on the gas from the opening tip. They played tenacious defense all game and made it a point to not let Louisville shoot a bunch of threes. The Bearcats were the more aggressive team in every area for the duration of the game and not until the final two minutes did the Cards show any sense of urgency, which cut the final margin of victory to only 9 points.
It’s one to thing to lose, but it’s another thing to get punked out and that’s what Cincinnati did to the Cards.
Ok, I’m done with the emotional stuff. Let’s look at some numbers to help explain this loss. First, the Cards only had 11 assists. For a team that wins with ball movement and player movement, Louisville did none of that tonight. Cincinnati made the Cards work hard to catch the ball and after awhile, they just stopped moving and settled for one on one basketball. That has never worked for this Louisville team.
Next, the Cards turned the ball over 15 times. Unless the opposing team turns the ball over 25 times, you cannot do that on the road and hope to win. It wasn’t so much the fact they turned the ball over that bothered me, it was how they did it. For example, Preston Knowles had one in particular when he drove and tried to kick it out to a covered teammate. If he didn’t pass it, he would have traveled. A turnover either way. In other words, he drove with no purpose.
Again, on the road, you cannot do things like that and expect to win.
For the game, UofL shot 47% from the floor, which is very good. However, they only hit 4-17 from three point range, largely because Cincinnati defended Louisville hard and forced them to take tough shots. There were also some wide open looks at critical junctures missed (cough, Mike Marra, cough) that quelled any momentum the Cards were trying to build.
Finally, the team defense once again was just plain bad. Whether it was poor switching, slow rotations, or just getting beat off the bounce, the Cards did it all. In fact, Louisville has now “progressed” to having several instances each game of literally running into each other, resulting in at least one guy falling down, and the other team buries a shot because of it.
It’s very Keystone Kops, but as comical as it is, I can do without seeing it for the rest of the year.
-Rakeem Buckles is borderline unplayable right now. He’s a turnover machine, slow to react defensively, and quite frankly, I’m trying to determine what exactly he does on offense. He did hit a three tonight and have a dunk late, but he’s so rusty it’s painful to watch. I realize you have to play him because it’s the only way for him to get his game back, but he’s definitely struggling right now.
-This game should illustrate the struggles this team has when Peyton Siva has to sit for an extended period of time. I’m as big of an Elijah Justice fan as anyone, but he is simply way too passive for Big East play, especially against a tough defensive team. Bullet played 12 minutes and recorded 2 assists with 2 turnovers.
-And while on the subject of point guards, Peyton Siva had a rough night as well. He finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, but fouled out and was never a factor because of it. This game reminded me of his performance against Kentucky in that he was matched-up against a taller, longer defender and seemed to be taken out of his game.
-Let’s end on a positive note. Terrence Jennings was the lone, somewhat bright spot for the Cards. TJ was again active offensively and finished with 14 points. I really didn’t think he got the ball enough. The Cards are a pretty good inside-out team, but I don’t remember one possession in which they did that. TJ is now becoming an asset for Louisville, they need to recognize it.
Ok, so the Cards lost. That’s fine, just make sure this one loss doesn’t turn into two or three. The Cards don’t have time to rest as they get back on the floor Friday night at home against UConn. We’ll have a preview of that contest shortly.