Kyle Kuric capped off a massive Louisville run last night
Hard to find too many faults in last night’s beat-down at the KFC Yum! Center. The suddenly resurgent Louisville Cardinals (19-5, 7-4) used a relentless, punishing attack on both ends of the floor to blow out Uconn, 80-59, in front of 21,804 rabid fans. I said last night on the post game show that I thought the Kyle Kuric dunk that punctuated the 4-minute run (it should just be called “the run” from here on out….nothing more needs to be said) midway through the second half was the loudest I’ve ever heard the Yum! Center. Even louder than the Marquette comeback last year or the Peyton Siva lay-up to beat West Virginia. It was insane in there. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Cards click on every possible cylinder like that and it was a thing of beauty to see unfold. They used incessant pressure on the defensive end to force Uconn point guard Shabazz Napier to the sidelines where he was repeatedly trapped by Siva and Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng recorded 4 steals in a matter of like 3 minutes and the other few possessions the Huskies had resulted in forced shots or deflections. And it seemed like Louisville converted on the offensive end after each and every Uconn miscue. The end result was a 26-6 run that buried the Huskies for good.
Louisville, once again, gets huge contributions from Chris Smith who led the team with 16 points (he also had 6 rebounds) and Chane Behanan, who led the team with 12 rebounds. Behanan struggled a bit on the offensive end in the first half as Uconn forwards Alex Oriakhi and Tyler Olander repeatedly slapped down on the ball in the low post and forced the freshman into a few frustrating turnover’s. Credit Rick Pitino and Behanan for making a nice adjustment at half as he stopped using the power dribble and started going up faster and more aggressively in the second half. Gorgui Dieng finished with 15 points, 6 steals and 6 rebounds and played 31 big minutes despite the ankle injury suffered during Saturday’s win over Rutgers. He’s fine, and I think we can all move on at this point. Siva continued his dominance over the Huskies and finished with 9 assists and only 2 turnover’s. Also, big props to oft-criticized junior/senior/who-the-hell-really-knows, forward, Jared Swopshire who played 14 key minutes and scored 9 points and recorded 2 blocked shots. This was a team effort from top to bottom, and everybody made their contributions. The Cards finished with 22 assists on 32 field goals, an incredibly unselfish showing that helped fuel them to the victory.
Uconn has now lost 5 out if their last 6 games and while it appears that their head coach, Jim Calhoun, will not be back on the sidelines any time soon, they sit just 5-6 in the Big East (15-8 overall) and will have to fight just to make the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies were smothered by UofL’s switching defenses and got little contributions from anyone other than freshman Ryan Boatright, who led the way with 18 points. Pre-season All-American Jeremy Lamb scored just 7 points in 35 minutes and projected lottery pick center Andre Drummond was dominated in the post by Dieng and Behanan and finished scoreless and with only 4 rebounds. Junior forward Alex Oriakhi had a solid game and finished with 11 points and 7 boards. The Huskies shot just 3-14 from behind the three-point line (21.4%) and just 20-57 overall (35%). They also committed 15 turnover’s and were out-rebounded by the Cards, 40-35.
It’s not hard to see what’s going on with this incredibly talented, yet very underachieving Uconn team. They’re loaded with marquee names and probably have 4-5 NBA caliber players on their roster, yet they appeared lethargic and uninterested during the midst of that second half Louisville run. Unlike the Cardinals, who could point to injuries and instability in practice, the Huskies have to be suffering from internal dissension and chemistry problems. When you have that much talent, sometimes egos prevail and guys tend to become more consumed with their personal stats than the team getting a victory. On the flip side, Louisville seems to be the antithesis of everything that Uconn is. They appear to have completely come together and it’s quite evident that they’re one of the hottest teams in the conference. As interim head coach George Blaney noted after the game, “You don’t want to play teams when they’re on an uptick…..and Louisville’s on an uptick.” It was rumored that there were 31 credentialed NBA scouts in attendance last night – no doubt the majority were there to see various Uconn players. But I can guarantee you that they left with some new-found intrigue in this resurgent Louisville team.
Bring out the bandwagon.
* Photo courtesy of the Courier