By Noah Allison
Rekindling a conference rivalry of old, the Louisville Cardinals played host to
the Memphis Tigers on Thursday night. Memphis won 73-67, putting their overall
record at 11-3, and putting Louisville’s at 13-3. The third loss of the season for the
Cardinals reveals that the young defending national champions still have some
polishing up to do.
“We have to give them credit. We didn’t play really well. We turned it over at
crucial times, got into low defense, gave up the 3 and missed free throws, but we
have to give them credit. They outplayed us,” U of L head coach Rick Pitino said.
With the score tied at 67 with one minute and thirty-one seconds left, the
Cardinals missed their last four jump shots and had a series of defensive miscues
that surrendered the lead and led to the loss.
“In the end we had a little bit of a miscommunication, some people were in a
two-three and others were in man defense. So we just had a couple of mistakes but
you just can’t have that at the end of a basketball game, especially a big game like
this in conference play,” said freshman guard Terry Rozier. “Tonight, just wasn’t our
Louisville had twelve steals to Memphis’ eight, but gave up second chance
points and failed to switch on defense at certain times. Memphis outrebounded
Louisville 37 to 35.
“Our defense is not as good this year. It hasn’t been. I hate to keep beating
that horse to death, but it hasn’t been. We had three key situations. We’re in control
of our destiny; we got in the wrong defense and then ran out of it and gave up the 3.
That may be the most bone headed play I’ve ever witnessed in my life,”Pitino said.
Senior forward Luke Hancock led the Cardinals in scoring with 20 points and
senior guard Russ Smith was second in scoring with 19 points. Sophomore forward
Montrezl Harrell led the team in rebounds with 14 and minutes played with 37.
Since the ultimate suspension of forward Chane Behanan the role of Harrell has
significantly increased. And seniors Smith and Hancock have to play their best each
and every game. That being said, none of the three captains have proven to live up
to the leadership void left by the graduation of last year’s starting point guard
Peyton Siva. Siva not only proved to be the consummate professional, but set the
Cardinals all time single season steals record with 90.
“There is no leader on the team… You have to be a defensive player to be a
leader; you can’t be an offensive player. It takes defense to win. They shot 51
percent. You can’t give up 51 percent at home and expect to win a ball game.”
Louisville is now 2-1 in American Athletic play. The Louisville-Memphis
rivalry has now covered four conferences, dating back to the Missouri Valley
Conference, Metro Conference, Conference USA and now the American Athletic
Conference. The Cardinals will play Memphis in Memphis on March 1.
The expectations for this year’s Cardinals prove not to be unfair, but it cannot
be understated that this simply is not last year’s team. Three starters from last years
line-up are not Cardinals. A third loss isn’t pleasant, but the fact that they were a
series of good plays away in all three losses should be reflective of what this team
can be come March.
“I don’t think anybody is losing faith, some people will be upset about the
way the game went tonight,” Hancock said. ”But bottom line we know we are a good team, we know we have some growing to do, and hopefully we just have each others back and get better with each practice.”