Louisville Card File: Cincinnati

University of Louisville: 2012 Big East Tournament Champion.

‘Splain that one to me????????

As the conference is falling apart before our very eyes, the Cards won their second league tourney title in the last four years in the only championship tilt not featuring at least one original member. As a #7 seed.

Four days. Four games. Four Ws. Three against schools that beat U of L during the regular season.

Louisville 50, Cincinnati 44.

The Cards defense, stalwart during this improbable tournament run, let down after holding the Bearcats to a mere 14 first half points. Cincy tallied 30 after the break. Better buckle up, Cards. Okay, just kidding. That’s a joke.

* * * * *

Louisville took charge last night at the exact same juncture as in the semi final W over Notre Dame — coming out of the second media timeout.

Cincy had the ball up 6-5 after the 11:02 stoppage. Chris Smith, who kickstarted Louisville with 10 first half points, stole the ball from Cashmere Wright. Peyton Siva scored on a lay up. Then Siva grabbed a rebound, and Smith tallied a trey. Soon thereafter, Wayne Blackshear grabbed one off the offensive boards, resulting in a Gorgui Dieng slam.

Timeout Cincinnati.

Two Russ Smith free throws later, the 9-0 run gave Louisville a 14-6 lead it never relinquished.

* * * * *

What I love about the post season is that style points don’t matter.

Kick it away. Play as if the you’ve never heard the word flow before. Give up offensive rebounds. No problem.

Play tough. Be relentless. Score more points than the opponent. That’s the winning ticket.

So, it matters not in the aftermath that Cincy hit 59% after the break. Or that the Cards once again had more turnovers than assists. Or that U of L slowed it to a crawl too soon, giving Cincy a whiff of hope. 50 points is more than 44 points and is spelled C H A M P I O N.

* * * * *

Chris Smith was the catalyst, hitting a three :25 seconds into the game. He finished with three of them, 15 points total, a few rebounds, a couple of steals and significant defensive presence.

Kyle Kuric had 13 and 4.

Peyton Siva, tourney MVP, tallied 10, grabbed 4 rebounds and had 5 assists, finishing his night, answering Doris Burke’s questions with his arm around her shoulders.

Russ Smith had two assists, three steals and again was the disruptive key to Louisville’s swarming D.He made three key plays at the end. At 48-44 with 1:53 to play, he forced a turnover when Cincy could have cut the lead to two or less. It was the same score at :28.7 when Cincy’s JaQuon Parker missed two FTs. On the second, Smith blocked out the shooter — B-ball 101, but oft forgotten — and was fouled because of his perfect positioning. He canned both free tosses for the final margin.

Jared Swopshire gave no quarter in 13 minutes of relief.

Gorgui Dieng corralled 10 rebounds, his frontcourt running mate, Chane Behanan, 8.

* * * * *

I loved that U of L was 8/9 at the charity stripe and outrebounded Mick Cronin’s team by 9, holding them to 0 offensive boards in the second half.

But here are my two favorite stats of the tournament.

It’s my understanding the Cards trailed for only :45 seconds during the entire tournament. And that Kyle Kuric was on the court for almost all of the 160 possible minutes and only turned it over once.

* * * * *

In the euphoria of victory, I’ve been questioned by several fans, wondering if I’ve changed my opinion of Rick Pitino, whom I’ve relentlessly criticized for a good while now?

Listen, the guy coached a great tournament. He gave his tottering squad hope. He tweaked the offense, ratcheted up the defense and substituted prudently.

I’m impressed.

And, for today, I’m going to follow his advice — and that of my pal David — and embrace the moment. Whatever happens from here on out, Louisville, whom I’d given up for dead, won the Big East tournament. And a whole lot of the credit goes to Rick Pitino.

* * * * *

Next up: Some School somewhere in the N C Double A.

– Seedy K

9 Comments

  1. gnash001
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Portland???????

  2. cbcard
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s in northwest Louisville around 24th and Main. Isn’t it?

  3. cbcard
    Posted March 11, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes KK played 147 minutes with one TO. And different guys stepped up in different ways at different times. They left silver bullets all over the court.

  4. Hendricks
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    2 titles in four years, three trips to the Big East title game in that same time period…a whole lotta hate has come from most every angle in this town this year. Perspective is always a good thing. More nets to come no doubt…

  5. cbcard
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    To Hendricks: While the BE runs are great the last two years’ one and dones in the NCAA are much more important in the minds of many. I shudder to think of the reaction if we lose to Davidson and complete a trifecta. I know I will immediately be on the phone to my insurance agent talking about getting earthquake coverage.

  6. Seedy K
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Years ago, some fellow Cardinal fans and I developed the shtick of “season ticket insurance” to cover us for those painful losses. Perhaps we can buy a tournament rider? Unfortunately, from an actuarial perspective, I must assume a significant premium. 

  7. Hendricks
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It has always seemed to me that winning any sort of title in basketball, no matter what level, is a difficult thing to do. Sometimes I feel we Cards faithful get swept up in the ridiculous posturing which Cat fans begin the conversation with. If you start with the premise that your team wins, I can’t take you seriously. No one wants to lose, but belittling wins never makes sense to me…not that anyone is belittling a win round here…let’s just hope those insurance policies don’t need too much research come next Monday…hi-fives a go go…

  8. fred
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    With the knowledge that this was the last year for the BIg East as we have come to know it, my wife and I headed to New York last Tuesday hoping we would at least beat Seton Hall, then see some good basketball the rest of the week,a Syracuse vs. fill-in-the-blank final and have some fun in New York. We saw ten games in six days including three quarter finals, both semi finals and of course, the championship game. We won four game in four days against three teams that had beaten us in the regular season. And from where I stood when they cut down the nets, I did not see an asterisk dangling from the championship trophy because we beat Cincy or because, well, it’s not the NCAA. Four wins in four days. It’s a BIG deal and one of the biggest thrills this UL fan has ever experienced. And love him or not, Rick Pitino deserves the applause for going to war with the army he has and upseting the whole big apple cart. The guys are rollin’.

  9. c d kaplan
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    What Fred said.

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