Pitino goes with white, Louisville thumps Marquette

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Less than five minutes after his Louisville team had defeated Marquette 71-50, a relieved Rick Pitino showed up in the press room wearing a brown plaid shirt and dark pants.

“I really didn’t want to wear the white suit today, I was ready for a change,” he said, adding that he had been warned by his wife, his niece and daughter that not wearing the suit would be bad luck. So he changed his mind, opting for the old reliable.

Five minutes into the game, Pitino was having second thoughts. His team had missed all five shots, including three layups, turned the ball over twice and Gorgui Dieng already had his first foul.  Oh yeah, his team was behind 9-1 and nothing was working.Pitino-brown-shirt

“I wished I was wearing a black suit at that point,” he said. That was when he pulled Montrezl Harrell off the bench, sending him in for Chane Behanan, and the game would take a dramatic turn.

Harrell would deliver right on cue, intercepting a Marquette pass, taking it the length of the court for a dunk. From then on, it was just a matter of time, UofL finally tying the game 16-16 at the 9:18 mark on a layup by Wayne Blackshear and taking the lead for good at 21-18 on a three-pointer by Russ Smith.

A textbook win over a good Marquette team, poised to take over the top spot in the Big East Conference. No last minute heroics required in a game that reaffirmed for Pitino that his team has what it takes to be a contender in March.

Russ Smith playing in control, making three assists, two of six three-point shots, leading all scorers with 18 points.

Peyton Siva spending his time outside the lane most of the game, a shooter again, turning in 14 points and seven assists.

Gorgui managing to stay out of foul trouble, thanks to 15 minutes of relief from Stephan Van Treese, contributing eight points and eight rebounds. Van Treese with three rebounds and four points.

UofL would dominate Marquette in all phases of the game, holding the Golden Eagles to 35.8% from the field, preventing them from taking over the No. 1 spot in the Big East, serving notice that Louisville still has its sights on that spot and something much, much bigger in March.

The white suit had played a role again.

Big East Catholic schools rush to exit

Moving at record speed for a group of academic institutions, seven Catholic basketball schools have agreed to leave the Big East, according to a report from ESPN. They first discussed the possibility with Commissioner Mike Aresco on Sunday.

DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova have finally seen the folly of mixing football and basketball-focused schools and may form still another conference. Pundits are already describing the new creation as the Big Priest Conference.

They may have to wait a while, however, because the Big East may have a case for requiring them to pay exit fees and requiring them to wait 27 months under league by-laws. Apparently the announced departure of the University of Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers University to the Big Ten was the final straw for the schools.

Don’t expect their plans to ease the way for an early departure of UofL to the ACC. An Coxey’s Army of lawyers is already involved, and the football schools in the Big East have the Catholic schools outnumbered 12 to 7.

Conference realignment continues to take some unpredictable turns.

 

 

Louisville gorges on fast food feast, no crumbs for Marquette

Gotta give Marquette credit for wanting to play basketball the way it is meant to be played, going at breakneck speed, employing a full court press, attacking the basket, relentless.

Playing right into the hands of the University of Louisville, a team hungry for a fast-paced game after navigating an interminable obstacle course of Princeton wannabes the last five games.

Feasting on it, gobbling it down, going back for seconds, dishing out an 84-71 defeat to the No. 2 seed, UofL advancing to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. No miracle comebacks, no last second shots so typical of the UofL-Marquette rivalry needed, thank you.

  • Peyton Siva silencing his critics for a night with one of the best performances of his career, weaving in, around, between and behind the disoriented MU defenders.  Not the same little guy they saw on film, this one with 18 points, six steals and seven rebounds. The box score gives him only six assists, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.
  • Show time for Russ Smith. Back on the big stage, back home, back in New York. Conducting clinics on defense and free throw shooting. Don’t even think about a cross-over dribble, he’ll make you pay, totally disrupting and demoralizing, resulting in six steals and lot of red faces. Six of six from the free throw line, each one critical, never in doubt.
  • Kyle Kuric acting on what Rick Pitino has been urging him to do, dumping the docility, becoming creative, shooting like every shot is going in, getting to the boards. Actually smiling again, having fun, leading all scorers with 20 points.  Four rebounds, two blocked shots as well.
  • Who knew Gorgui Dieng had the ability or inclination to commit a technical foul? Not when he goes up for a rebound and a defender slips beneath him, the last thing anyone expects is a whistle and a foul. He looks more energetic this game, with his nine rebounds. Don’t forget the steal, he worked hard for it.
  • When Dieng gets three fouls in the first half, one expects a sad ending for UofL. But Jared Swopshire wasn’t buying, he was playing his best game ever, falling just short of his first-ever double-double with 11 rebounds and eight points. So that’s why Pitino keeps putting him in in crucial situations. More of the same would be a tremendous boost to this UofL basketball team.

A welcome respite from the bump-and-grind, a return to fun basketball, the run and gun, almost as many shots (77) as points. What a welcome relief. Savor it because it’s probably back to the bump-and-grind Friday night. Sharpen up the knives for a meat-and-potato game.

Ugly ball works for Louisville again

Another one of those games that doesn’t inspire confidence in the immediate future of University of Louisville basketball. A rerun of the irksome style of play, depressing but resulting in one more unsightly win.

With the scarcity of shooters so obvious, UofL fans are going to have learn to appreciate this style of play. It may be, in fact, the only option available to Rick Pitino if this season is going to be extended beyond two more games.

Pitino’s take-no-prisoners approach on defense obviously takes a toll on other phases of the game. Until halftime of the 61-55 win over Seton Hall, he has rarely discussed his team’s offense, as if it would somehow resolve itself. Pitino actually making it clear that he wants Kyle Kuric to shoot his way out of a shooting slump.

  • Forget Wayne Blackshear becoming a contributor until he buys in or understands what Pitino wants him to do on defense. The coach said he’s going to need Blackshear against Marquette but the coach says a lot of things. Better to watch what he does, rather than what he says.
  • Gorgui Deing caught on a long time ago, his six blocks putting him at 104 for the season, a record for Louisville basketball. Pervis is history.
  • Russ Smith playing so hard on defense, he’s unable to hit the basket on free throws near the end. Even he has limits on endurance.
  • Nice to see Peyton Siva making something besides lay ups, possibly gaining more confidence in shooting skills that were never suspect until this season. His only cure, like Kuric’s, is to keep shooting. Fear of shooting has never been a positive thing.

Next up is Marquette, a team that plays the kind of basketball UofL fans were expecting from their own team this season. But if Louisville is to survive and advance one more game, there will be a return of ugly ball.

Pitino’s alignment would be good for Big East

Rick Pitino may have provided a solution for easing the way to what many analysts consider an inevitable breakup of the Big East Conference, in which the football schools would separate from the non-footballers to create separate entities.

In his latest blog post, the University of Louisville coach suggests dividing basketball into two divisions. One would include Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati, TCU, Rutgers, UConn and South Florida. The other division would consist of Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence and Notre Dame.

The division suggestion would eliminate the abitrary nature of the current scheduling process. Someone in Providence deciding which teams will play each other twice during the season, based on some undefined criteria.

The scheduling process has never been balanced, whether a team has a good outlook or a bad one. I’ve always wondered why the conference would be making that judgement anyway.

Equally important, Pitino’s proposed new scheduling lineup acknowledges that there are major differences between the schools in their overall goals and aspirations. The existing conference will never realize its potential as long as football, the No. 1 sport in college athletics, takes a back seat to basketball.