Collapse leads to early departure for Louisville

Such an impressive first half, the University of Louisville racing out to a 10-point lead at one point, hitting 52 percent of its shots, clinging to a five-point lead at the half, a great first impression in the heralded Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament.

The Cardinals leading by 10 points at one point, North Carolina just trying to keep it close. angry man

Turnovers on the first two possessions of the second half, however, are a harbinger of what lies ahead for UofL. A drop off in focus and intensity, a serious bump in momentum that will prove fatal in the 70-60 loss to North Carolina.

One of the turnovers a pass from Terry Rozier bouncing off the hands of Chinanu Onuaku, not expecting the ball, leading to a 3-pointer by UNC’s Justin Jackson. The other a gift from Quentin Snider to Brice Johnson leading a slam, tying the game at 37-37.

A chess match the rest of the half, the dreaded shooting slump rearing its ugly head again.

Looking for quick fixes, the wrong guys taking the wrong shots, benefiting and prolonging the North Carolina zone. The Cardinals could manage only eight of 36 shots in the final 20 minutes, missing 15 of their last 17 shots. Of those eight baskets, three of them were dunks by Montrezl Harrell.

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It’s a shame Terry Rozier will have had only the equivalent of one full season at UofL when he enters the NBA draft this spring. One of the better all-around players during Rick Pitino’s tenure, he has enormous potential, inspiring confidence every time he gets the ball.

Rozier would lead UofL with 20 points, but he needed 20 attempts to get those points, connecting on only six shot attempts.

One more season would have greatly benefitted Terry and Louisville basketball. Would have been fun to watch him grow and mature. But that’s college basketball these days, so dimished by the NBA influence, lacking some of the important elements that made the sport so popular for decades.

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Rick Pitino clearly angry following the game, lashing out at a student reporter from the Louisville Cardinal, the school newspaper, and only answering a couple of other questions before departing the press conference. He followed that up by sending out an assistant coach for the post-game radio interview.

A lesson learned for a would-be sportwriter: Never be the first person to ask Pitino a question after a loss.

One of the disadvantages of losing early is that the players will have five or six more grueling practice sessions under the scathing eyes of Pitino. Practices are challenging enough when they’re winning. They’re off the chart after losses.

UofL women meet North Carolina in ACC Tournament — Fox Sports South & ESPN3.com

The good news for University of Louisville women’s basketball fans who saw their team upset by Virginia last Sunday is the Cavaliers have crashed after upsetting UofL on Sunday. The Cavaliers were booted out of the ACC tournament by Georgia Tech 62-52 Thursday.

UofL’s loss to Virginia is still hard to stomach, given their six losses in the past eight games.

Jeff Walz’ team has had a few days to get over the embarrassment and should be highly motivated as it takes on a strong North Carolina team in the quarterfinals Friday at Greensboro. The Tar Heels, with a 24-7 record overall, finished sixth in the ACC regular season with a 10-6 mark.

North Carolina has won four of five games since losing by nine points to Louisville on February 15th. The other loss was a one-point decision at Duke on Sunday.

The UofL coach says his team has focused on half-court execution following the Virginia loss. “Hopefully, you’ll see a much better pace Friday night, how we execute and take care of the basketball,” he said.

The game against North Carolina will be telecast on Fox Sports South (Channel 70 on Time Warner Cable) and streamed on ESPN3.com.

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The UofL vs. Miami baseball game, originally scheduled for Friday, has been postponed until Saturday because of the frigid temperatures. They will play a doubleheader, starting at Noon.

When coach is concerned, everyone is concerned

Kenny-Klein-and-Rick-PItino

There are some concerned looks on the University of Louisville sideline before the second half begins between UofL and North Carolina Saturday. Coach Rick Pitino is more than a little disconcerted about how the game is going, his team trailing by 11 points.

Kenny Klein, the sports information direction, is obviously empathetic with the coach, knowing the Cardinals will have their hands full. But this is before Pitino’s team will overcome an 18-point deficit in the second 20 minutes to hand North Carolina a 78-68 defeat in overtime.

Just another dramatic come-from-behind win among many during Pitino’s colorful coaching career, much to the relief of the Louisville coach and the sports information director.

Pitino will focus on bench after Louisville’s loss to North Carolina

The moment is at hand, Wayne Blackshear standing alone in the corner. A chance to erase some disapponting expectations, create a highlight for Sports Center. Not this time, the shot bounding off the rim, North Carolina defeating the University of Louisville, 72-71.

Things actually began to head south at the 6:24 mark on Montrezl Harrell’s enigmatic  inbounds pass between two North Carolina players, ball winding up in Marcus Paige’s hands, quickly dumping a three-point shot, cutting UofL’s lead to seven points at 65-58.  UNC would outscore UofL 13-5 the rest of the way.

Fatigue had caught up with the depth-challenged Cardinals who had a sum total of four rebounds and zero points from the bench. Time taking a toll, affecting the offense and, especially, the defensive intensity, wearing down the Cardinals when it most counted. All that effort down the tubes.

Guess where Rick Pitino’s focus will be over the next week?

Chris Jones continuing to play at a high level, unitimidated by the North Carolina tradition, the Dean Dome or the crowd of 21,750.  He would connect on eight of 12 field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, and make and five assists.

Terry Rozier making crucial shot after crucial shot until that desperation attempt at the end. Finishing the day on a game-high 25 points to go with four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Montrezl Harrell, criticized by Pitino’s for his lack of rebounding (“He was terrible on the boards,” said the coach) could manage only five rebounds and nine points.

Chinanu Okuaku, the 6-foot-9 freshman, may have provided some hope in the middle,taking this game seriously, not backing down, standing his ground, actally looking to score. Making three of four shots, two of two free throws, eight rebounds, and two blocks.

Pitino said afterward his team played one of its better games. Probably should have won. His biggest challenge is to get his starters more support from a young, inexperienced and largely untested bench. Jones, Rozier and Harrell were on the floor 37 or more minutes — and that’s a bit much to ask.