Wait till next year time for Louisville basketball

Time to put the basketballs in mothballs.

The University of Louisville dies a quick death Thursday afternoon. First game. First out. Minnesota 86, Louisville 76.  UofL finishes 20-14, losing six of their last eight games. The two wins coming against Notre Dame.

The Cardinals shoot air balls. Fall trying to rebound. Foul three point shooters. Actually don’t guard the three-point line where the Golden Gophers averaged five made threes a game but made 11 of 27 on Thursday.

Minnesota led by as many of 19 points. Gabe Kalscheur led the Gophers with 24 points making five of 11 three point baskets and eight rebounds. Amir Coffey added 13. The Gophers had zero bench points.

Christen Cunningham led the Cards with 22 points, Jordan Nwora had 10 for a team that shot 44.1 per cent from the floor and nine of 26 from three point baskets for 34.6 percent. The teams payed to a 35-35 draw rebounding.
“It’s a special movement for our program,” said Gophers coach Richard Pitino, son of former Cardinals head man, Rick Pitino. “We beat a really good Louisville team.”

The Cardinals never gave up, but were climbing a mountain all afternoon.
The NCAA Tournament is the reward for a season well played. Louisville did enough to earn an at large bid to the 68 team field for the first time since 2017 and the second time in four years.

Card Nation is tired of the drama with the basketball and football teams. The committee added drama with the matchup between Pitino’s 10th seeded Gophers and seventh seed Louisville. It was the tournament’s first game in of this years tournament. A CBS national audience watching for at least 30 minutes. The Cardinals were mostly a mess. Louisville gave up three baskets at a alarming rate. Fell down on rebounds. Shot air balls. What could Chris Mack do?

It’s the journey. No more false hopes, bad basketball won’t do. Card Nation can only hope and wait till next year.

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.

Quiet intensity at U of L

Things have all but come to a standstill in the athletic department on Belknap Campus as best we can tell.

  • Rick Pitino probably in Florida sipping martinis beside an exotic patio pool when he’s not attending basketball camps. Reflecting on the year that was, from ridding himself the Karen Sypher mess to developing a University of Louisville basketball team that became an all-time favorite. The same look in his eyes in July as was there in March.
  • Charlie Strong keeping one eye on the weight room, the other on the telephone awaiting more telephone calls with good news from Clint Hurtt. Confident his team can continue to show improvement, but all too aware of the challenges that come with inexperienced offensive lines, quarterbacks, and wide receivers.
  • Dan McDonnell recovering from a disappointing baseball season, but not losing 10 players in the Major League Baseball draft this time around. Not accustomed to mediocre baseball or slow bats, determined that the magic will return to Jim Patterson Stadium. Making occasional calls to Ken Lolla.
  • Ken Lolla out making motivational speeches, sending inspirational tweets, wearing the Observer out with his eternal optimism. Hawking season tickets with that eternal scarf. Knowing it works, driving him and those around him. Enjoying a nice recruiting class, maintaining an iron-clad focus on a national soccer championship. Knowing how to get there.
  • Jeff Walz crisscrossing the country for recruits, taking his kids to Walt Disney World, meeting himself coming and going, getting the women ready for exhibition games in Canada.
  • Tom Jurich shaking the money trees for a 5,000-seat soccer stadium, expanded seating for baseball and women’s softball, occasionally pulling out plans for another expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Enjoying a second summer without all the Kragthorpe sniping. Life is good.

An all-too-brief reprieve from the spotlight for them. But the pressure is always there, eating at them, haunting them, motivating them, propelling them forward. A break from the fans, the fanaticism, the nuts, the analysts, the ups and downs. A time to recharge. The dog days will be gone soon enough.

Mum’s The Word, Pitino

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One celebrity coach hereabouts is starting to grate on the nerves.

Less than three days before the football season starts, this one is attempting, successfully, to hog the media spotlight. Making news by hiring an assistant coach with strong ties to a blue chip recruit, granting an exclusive interview with a local TV station, doing impromptu press conferences. What’s next?

The observer concurs wholeheartedly with one of the observer’s former bosses — Earl Cox, retired Courier-Journal sports editor — who makes this demand in this week’s Voice-Tribune:

“Pitino needs to be reminded ‘forcefully’ by Ramsey and Jurich that there are other sports on the campus besides basketball.”

Starting to remind me of a former U of L coach who didn’t know when to stop talking, and wound up losing the respect of his players.

Quiet. Hush. Go away for a few weeks.



Collateral Damage

Either something died on the way to South Bend, or this was the long overdue letdown after all the close ones. The good news is that Notre Dame missed a lot of shots that it usually makes against Louisville.

This third trimester abortion of a team’s effort may have cost U of L any possibility of:

— Landing a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament

— Terrence Williams being named conference player of the year.

— The switch turning on for Earl Clark.

— Remaining in the top 15 in the national polls.

— Any intimidation factor for the rest of the schedule.

Was it a case of a team embracing what it had accomplished during the 10-game winning streak, thinking it had arrived when the coach was telling them otherwise, brushing the advice aside as just more Pitino talk, the coach and part-time comedian who keeps the local media in stitiches during pre-game press conferences.

Or it could have just been an aberration, one of those things that sometimes happens to good teams. Veteran fans can remember a team getting pummeled 99-59 by Xavier during the 1955-56 season but winning the rest of the its games, including what was then college basketball’s biggest prize in the post season.

But that was a long time ago, and it’s difficult to imagine anything so grand happening this season.

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