For about thirty-four minutes, Louisville was bad, bordering on pitiful. They weren’t rebounding, they were missing free throws, throwing the ball away, and looked generally disinterested in this game. Everything was set up for a double digit blowout loss at home for a second strait conference loss.
Then, with about six minutes left to play and Louisville down 18 points, two things started to happen: Preston Knowles heated up and the Cards started playing some defense.
Down 65-47 and 5:44 on the clock, Stephan Van Treese made a layup, then Preston buried a three, stole the ball, and hit SVT for another lay up to trim the lead to only 65-54.
After a Marquette timeout, Jimmy Butler missed a three and then Preston connected again on a three to cut the lead to 65-57. Chris Smith then converted on a driving layup and after a Marquette miss, Preston drained another three to make it a one possession game.
Marquette scored to widen the lead, but Preston Knowles went unconscious and drilled another three to close the gap to 67-65. Marquette scored again, then after an Elisha Justice miss, Terrence Jennings grabbed a huge offensive rebound and got fouled.
Doing his best Milt Wagner impersonation, TJ made both. The score was now 69-67 Marquette and 49 seconds on the clock. The Cards were forced to foul.
They did and MU’s Junior Cadougan made one. The Cards raced down and Kyle Kuric missed from deep, but TJ was there again for another big offensive rebound and foul. Once again, TJ made both attempts to cut the lead to 70-69.
With 24 seconds left, Marquette’s Dwight Buycks inexplicably drove to the basket. Keep in mind, his team is ahead, they do not need to shoot. Fortunately for Louisville, he attacked the basket, but had his shot blocked by Jennings. The Cards grabbed possession and Rick Pitino used his final timeout with 12 seconds left.
Louisville inbounded the ball to Elisha Justice. Kyle Kuric screened for Preston around the left side. Because of Preston’s hot shooting, Marquette was determined to not let him get his shot off and three guys ended up blanketing Preston at the top of the key.
As that happened, Kuric slipped down underneath the basket and Preston found him for a wide open layup.
Marquette called timeout, but failed to convert and Louisville completed an absolutely huge comeback win.
There were many contributors, but the two main guys I want to talk about are Preston Knowles and Terrence Jennings.
When Preston gets in that zone, he literally does not miss. He seems to take it to a new level every game with the degree of difficulty on his shots, particularly threes. The last one he hit today was simply sick. He caught the ball at the top right, about four feet behind the line, and jumped before looking at the basket.
Turning in mid-air, he released at the top of his jump, and the result was a perfect swish.
It’s speculation on my part, but I have to believe Preston’s last three was a backbreaker for Marquette. They had Preston covered and he still buried it. After that basket, Marquette’s body language didn’t look good, almost as if they felt they would lose.
Preston finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Perhaps the guy that deserves the most praise is the much maligned Terrence Jennings. TJ, like the rest of his team, was dreadful for most of the game. Pressed into duty because Gorgui Dieng fouled out, Jennings was going to have to play down the stretch.
Never thought I would use the word clutch in any kind of association with Terrence Jennings, but he was just that today. Obviously, going 4-4 at the free throw line late in the game was huge, but the reason he got to the line was because he worked on the offensive glass.
On the game, TJ grabbed 4 offensive boards and 8 total to lead the Cards. Yes, he still has a low post offensive game that makes you cringe. Yes, he made an awful, potential rally killing turnover with a few minutes to play. But, his 2 offensive rebounds in the final minute were two of the biggest plays of the game and he deserves a lot of credit.
Terrence finished with 7 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block and 1 assist.
-George Goode contributed again. George played 14 minutes and scored 7 points with 6 rebounds. I know I say this pretty much after every game, but I love George.
-The play of Peyton Siva will be discussed a lot. Obviously, Peyton had a poor game and Pitino chose to go with Elisha Justice late. Peyton got into the lane at will (when he chose to), but seemed to always zig when he should have zagged. Peyton has played well this year, but this was not one of his better games.
Speaking of Justice, the Bullet got the nod at point in a critical game. He performed well, but did not score. He did dish out 2 assists and get 2 rebounds. I know today’s game will probably restart the ridiculous debate about who should be the point guard, Justice or Siva, but I will not participate in that asinine discussion.
-Many Louisville fans were/are upset about the fact the large number of football recruits left early and didn’t get to see the comeback. That is not unusual for the recruits to leave early. I’ve personally see that happen for years, so I would not read anything into it.
-Finally, great to have Bill Raftery calling the game. Much like Gus Johnson, that man has the ability to get me to watch any game he’s calling, regardless of who’s playing. It’s much better when he’s calling a great game like the one we watched today.
Louisville is now 14-3, 3-1 in Big East play. They return to the floor Wednesday night as they welcome in Steve Lavin’s hair and the St. John’s Red Storm. More on that game in a few days.