It was a familiar site last night in South Bend as the Louisville Cardinals came up just short of another impressive victory against a quality ranked opponent on the road. And just like the Georgetown game, all signs were there for Rick Pitino’s team (18-6, 7-4) to steal one in a hostile environment, but again, they came up just short. Even a highlight reel dunk from the world’s scariest looking white guy in High Definition, Kyle Kuric, wasn’t enough to overcome a very talented Notre Dame team. Also, it should be noted that Louisville continued its streak of 2,000 straight games where they let one guy absolutely kill them. This time the title goes to Ben Hansbrough, who lit up the cards for 25 points on 9-17 shooting. Hansbrough is no slouch of a player, and should be right in the mix for Big East player of the year along with Austin Freeman of Georgetown and Kemba Walker of Uconn, but he made the Cards look slow, flat-footed, and inferior with his constant attacking. And he did it from everywhere: the elbow with 15-footers, driving to the rim, from beyond the 3-point line, the locker room, etc. Good to see the streak continue.
Louisville also unveiled a new motion offense that really seemed to disrupt the Irish defense for most of the first half and about ten minutes of the second half. And then, predictably, the entire team forgot what got them to that point. It still fascinates me to see this team go completely brain dead at times. In the first half the ball movement was crisp, the shot selection was excellent, and the team was rebounding and constantly attacking the offensive glass. All of this led to 44 halftime points, the most Louisville has had in weeks. Then it all disappeared as the game went into the strech minutes. Instead of taking open shots and moving the ball, they settled for forced shots, isolation 1-on-1 drives, and lackadaisical rebounding. Even through all of that, they still had a chance to win on back-to-back possessions to end regulation. Each possession ended in a fading three pointer by Preston Knowles. The second of which came after a timeout where they had plenty of time to draw up a play to win the game. All I can say is this – let’s not ever confuse Rick Pitino for Denny Crum when it comes to an out-of-bounds play with the game on the line.
All in all, there’s a lot of positives to take away from the game as you saw a second straight breakout performance from Kyle Kuric with a career high 28 points, and we also saw the continuing emergence of Terrence Jennings who played brilliantly at times and showed a lot of hustle and determination en route to a 14 point 7 rebound effort. At this point in the season you have to take splits when you have back-to-back games against the likes of Notre Dame and Syracuse. Using that logic, Saturday’s Noon tip-off against The Orange becomes a must-win for the drunken Yum Center and the Louisville Cardinals.
– Brent Lepping