While this isn’t really a game that needs to be broken down. I will do so a bit in a second. At least a little bit.
First, major credit where major credit is due.
Coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff developed a great game plan, especially on the defensive end. The Eagles executed it immaculately.
Louisville was out of sync early. Louisville was out of sync late. Credit Morehead. The Ohio Valley Conference champs were ready. Ready for the Cards. Ready for the altitude. Ready to play the school’s biggest game in, oh, forever.
Louisville has no legitimate excuses. The best team today won. Period.
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Frankly, as disappointed as I am, I’m not all that surprised.
This U of L season has been a delicate balance. There have been inexplicable victories that have turned this team into one of the school’s most beloved, certainly the favorite of the Pitino Era. No absolutely reliable go to guy. Inconsistent post play. And an epidemic of inopportune injuries . . . up to the very end.
This season, Rick Pitino did his best coaching job of his Belknap Campus stint. But even the best have slipshod moments.
Were I on the bench, I would have fouled with the Cards up a deuce with 24 ticks to go. Let a less than stellar free throw team tie it at the line, with a chance to win it ourselves on a last shot. Overtime would have been acceptable.
That somewhat cockamamie strategy was not in force for the Cards. Demonte Harper hit the triple, his only one of the game in 6 attempts. Then Kenneth Faried blocked Mike Marra’s desperation shot.
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There were several critical junctures.
Louisville’s 2-15 start meant extra exertion in the altitude was mandated on every single possession for the rest of the game. 16 turnovers resulted.
Louisville went up 47-39 with 11:55 to play. The Cards then missed 3 of 4 FTs, gave up a couple offensive boards and threw it away twice. Morehead State retook the lead on a 10-1 run.
Equally as pertinent was Louisville’s woeful free throw shooting. It’s scared me all season and my fears were realized today. The Cards were 7/16 from the line. 43% does not git er done. Four different Cardinals missed at least two FTs and hit less than 50%.
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For the second season in a row, Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals go one and done.
I’m inclined to say this team deserves a better legacy than that. Sigh. Truth is this March Sadness will live on as a big, boldfaced asterisk on an otherwise storybook year.
Go Morehead, Beat Richmond.
– Seedy K