In the last Yum! outing against conference rival Bearcats, the Cards put on a performance that epitomizes the defending champs’ season. Louisville overcame a 17-point second-half deficit, but in the end Cincinnati won 69-66.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit because they lost total momentum in the game and good defensive teams can come back and hold on. They shot 63 percent in the second half, which is outstanding. We made really a couple of blunders down the stretch,” U of L Head Coach Rick Pitino said.
UC improves to a 20-2 overall record and a perfect 9-0 record in American Athletic Conference play. U of L fell to a 17-4 record and is 6-2 in AAC play. The Cardinals were led by sophomore power forward Montrezl Harrell who was the top scorer with 18 points, top rebounder with six and two blocked shots. Seniors, guard Russ Smith and forward Luke Hancock each had 16 points, Hancock led the Cards with six assists.
Red-shirt senior guard Sean Kilpatrick led the UC Bearcats offensively. Scoring a total of 28 points and going perfect at the free throw line, hitting 11 of 11 to ice the victory. “We tried to reach in and get steals on Kilpatrick when he’s an 86 percent foul shooter. It’s just uncalled for,” Pitino said. “But give them a lot of credit. They made a lot of big plays.”
The Cards fought back from a perfunctory first half that had them losing 20-28. With 16 minutes left the Cards were down 44-27. A Russdiculous three-point shot with 5:01 finally put the Cards up 64-61 and it seemed like the team everyone knew they could be was turning the corner on the season.
In that run the Bearcats committed nine turnovers due to the Cardinals swarming trap defense. The Cards were scoring on fast break points and attacking the basket successfully. “I think there were positives, anyone can see that. The way we fought and came back, we had a lot of fans behind us, but its something that we need to do for 40 minutes. If we do that we will be a tough team to beat,” freshman guard Terry Rozier said.
The Cards lost the rebounding duel, pulling down 25 to UC’s 36. In the end a few box outs could have made the difference for the Cardinals ability to hold on and later reclaim the lead. The Cardinals rebounding troubles are at the forefront of a long list of their game adjustments they need to straighten up to claim the AAC. But for now there is still enough time to just move on to the next game.
The Cards host the University of Central Florida Knights in the KFC YUM! Center at 9 pm, Saturday night. “We have just got to stay focused, there is nothing we can do. This loss is in the books, we can’t go back and replay a play,” Harrell said. “You take tonight, you think about it, you look at what you did wrong. Tomorrow is a new day, Saturday we play a new team, you can’t change the past.”