A win’s a win.
If ever there was an example of how true that saying is it was tonight. Louisville started off well and blistered Rutgers in the first half for a 33-19 advantage. Then, the second half began and the game turned into something barely resembling a Big East conference game. There were horrendous passes, heavy brick laying, and guys falling on the floor.
And that was just Rutgers.
The Cards scored only 22 points in the second half, including a near eight minute scoring drought in the middle of that frame. However, the Cards’ defense was pretty solid and the Scarlet Knights could not take advantage. Rutgers cut the lead to nine points with a little over nine minutes to play, but that was as close as they would get.
With 9:37 left to play, and the Cards holding a 39-30 lead, they went on a 15-7 run to end the game and secure their 21st victory on the year. Preston Knowles and Chris Smith buried threes on back to back possessions around the six minute mark to put the final nail in Rutgers’ coffin.
Preston Knowles, despite shooting only 4-13 from the floor, once again made big plays for Louisville. He started the game 3-3 from deep and really sparked the UofL offense in the first half. He also stuffed the stat sheet with 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 assists. But I think the most important thing Preston did tonight was how he played the point guard spot.
Rick Pitino has decided to go with Preston as Peyton Siva’s back-up and even though Preston looks like he’s about to lose control of the ball every time he dribbles, he did a fine job. Yes, Preston did commit 4 turnovers, but I like the way the Louisville offense ran with him at the helm.
As I said above, Preston gave the Cards an offensive spark early, but there’s another guy who did the same: Mike Marra.
The much maligned Marra had one of his best efforts since the Seton Hall game (UofL’s first Big East game on Jan. 5). Mike came in and drilled a three from the left corner. Then after an airball from the left wing in which I’m pretty sure he shorted by about six feet, Mike drained his next two from deep for 9 first half points.
But Marra did more than just shoot. I thought he played solid defense throughout the game, including a fantastic block that got called for an absurd goaltend. I’m pretty sure the officials were in shock he pulled it off and assumed it must have been an illegal block. Mike also took a charge late in the game, which I’m pretty sure caused Bob Valvano to do a fist pump while broadcasting the game for ESPNU.
Good for Mike Marra.
On a less positive note, Peyton Siva struggled tonight. I thought Rutgers did a great job of playing Peyton on ball screens and you could tell they were not going to allow him to get into the lane. Instead, they let Siva take outside shots and the results were ugly. Peyton went 0-2 from three and only scored on a late bucket. He finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers.
The overall stat line does not bother me so much, but what did bother me was the fact Peyton became gun shy after he missed his first couple shots. I’m not saying I want to see him just start launching, but he did get several good looks and passed them up. He needs to keep shooting when he’s open. Even though he’s shooting a poor percentage from three point range, I think he still needs to take them when they’re open.
-Terrence Jennings had a mixed bag kind of game. TJ finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 blocks. He went bi-polar tonight as he would go a few minutes of strong play with a good post move and solid defense, then all of a sudden get worked by RU’s 6-8 freshman Gilvydas Biruta. Overall, not a bad night, just an odd one for the big man from Sacramento.
-Speaking of TJ, with his 5 blocks tonight he moves into 8th in Louisville history in blocked shots. Yes, that’s correct. Terrence Jennings, with his junior year nearly complete, is 8th all-time in program history in blocked shots. That stat shocked me when I saw it.
-Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith quietly put together pretty strong games. Kyle finished with 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, while Chris scored 7 points and got 6 rebounds off the bench. The parallel between Kyle and Larry O’Bannon is being actively and accurately discussed by Cardinal fans, but I would throw in a similar parallel with Chris Smith. Chris is starting to become more consistent, as is Kyle, and just furthers my optimism for next year’s squad.
-Tim Henderson missed a wide open three late. C’mon son, you have to make that. I hope Rick makes him run 100 suicides to teach him a lesson.
-If you haven’t doneso already, follow Jay Bilas on Twitter. The man is a tweeting beast and does a great job of coupling sound basketball analysis with heavy sarcasm. It’s fantastic.
-Finally, George Goode did not play tonight, which makes two strait games. I am furious about it.
My George Goode rage aside, the Cards earned their 10th conference win tonight and improve to 10-5 in the Big East and 21-7 overall. UofL now has four days to prep for an extremely tough Pittsburgh team on Sunday. The 6th ranked Panthers come into the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm. We’ll have our preview up shortly.