Louisville gave by far its poorest performance of the season, getting completely out played in every aspect of the game by Villanova. The Cards hung around with them but ended up losing 73-64.
From the opening tip, it seemed as if Louisville was sluggish and uninterested in what they were doing. Chane Behanan’s early foul trouble threw the entire Louisville offense out of rythem. It forced the Cards to play a type of game that they are not accustomed to.
Then it became fairly obvious that Russ Smith was not having his best night by any stretch of the imagination. Russ would drive the floor and either take one of his patented ill-advised shots or he would get to far and have no where to go, eventually resulting in a turnover. Pitino said himself after the game “Offensively, Russ set a bad precedent tonight. He broke the plays. …We didn’t see the good Russ tonight.”
Even though Russ wasn’t nearly what we expected, we have to keep in mind that he has saved us in so many games so far this season. Without his play we lose to Illinois State and get demolished by Syracuse.
Ware wasn’t in control of himself tonight as shown by the play where he was passed the ball but failed to notice that he was standing out of bounds. Then there is Luke Hancock…you almost have to feel bad for him. Pitino built him up to be the next Lebron James last year and he has done nothing but disappoint so far this season. I don’t think it is his fault that he has disappointed this far though. Could you imagine the pressure that would be on your back if you were a player in waiting who was being called the best player on an already final 4 caliber team? Hancock simply doesnt move on offense, instead he stands in the corner and waits for someone to get him an open look. Then when he gets the open look, he pump fakes and takes two steps inside the arch to look for a pass. Maybe that is Hancock’s game and Louisville fans need to accept that he isnt the great playmaker that Pitino makes him out to be.
But even me backing up Luke Hancock and the criticism that he is getting doesn’t give any kind of explanation for the fact that he has been getting comparable minutes to Wayne Blackshear. I think we all saw tonight just how good Blackshear can be when he is aggressive. I mean, Blackshear didn’t win Mr. Basketball in Illinois over Anthony Davis for no reason. Even on an off night Blackshear is a better option because of his play on the defensive end of the floor. Hancock is just to slow to keep up with the guards in the Big East and it has been proven over the last two games. This doesn’t mean that I am against Hancock playing…it just means that they need to find a role for him in the system other than what he is playing right now.
Gorgui Dieng seemed to have disappeared during stretches in the game. Stephan Van Treese took some of his minutes in the first half and even started the second half over Dieng. Dieng did fill the stat sheet in the end with a very quiet 10 Pts, 9 Rbs, 2 Blks, and 2 Stls. Pitino also took notice of Dieng’s play, saying after the game “I don’t know where Gorgui was tonight. He was in Senegal in the first half.”
As already mentioned, Behanan got into foul trouble early, making his minutes in the first half very slim. If you look at the stats you would think that Behanan didn’t exactly hurt the team because he only had 2 field goal attempts. Then you come across his free throw ratio…3 for 9…and you notice how big of an impact that he could have had on this game. Every time that Behanan would get the ball on the block he would try to go up with it as fast as he could to avoid having to go to the free throw line. This resulted in 3 turnovers and multiple other lost possessions. Behanan seemed unconfident and was playing what looked to be cautious basketball.
If you want to look for a bright side for the night, Peyton Siva actually played pretty well. Other than a couple ill advised 3’s he played just like you would want your point guard to. Both Siva and Russ got blamed tonight for turnovers that can easily be argued were not their fault. Many times they drove the lane and found an open man on the block, and the recipient of the pass fumbled the pass to the other team. In the end, you can never complain when your point guard finishes with a double-double consisting of 15 Pts and 13 Ast.
Many people are comparing this loss to the loss that the Cardinals suffered to Providence last year. For the sake of all Louisville fans lets hope that, that is the case. Plus this could have easily been a trap game, coming off such an emotional loss to Syracuse over the weekend. Regardless, Louisville needs to deal with the issues at hand because if they lay an egg like this again in the tournament, it will cost them their season. I don’t think it is time to press the panic button but for many people to be worried is perfectly normal.
Louisville will have to bounce back quickly as they play Georgetown this weekend. Georgetown is going to try and slow them down to take them out of their game. We will see just how mature and how much championship material is in this team over the next few weeks.