Morehead ousts shaky Louisville

Someone had the Louisville basketball players in awe of their first round opponent, pounding into their heads just how tough Morehead State would be, not a team to take lightly, a monster of a team, clean your clock if you take them lightly.

They played those first eight-and-a-half minutes as if they were more nervous about Morehead State than playing in the opening game of the NCAA tournament. Stumbling off the bus, falling behind 15-2 in the shakiest start for U of L basketball in recent memory.

Good to instill respect for an opponent in one’s players, but scaring them to death? Whoa.

Morehead State is a decent team and Kenneth Faried is an exceptional rebounder. But when it counted in the first round of the NCAA, this Louisville team bore little resemblance to the one that won 25 games.

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When a twisted toe ended Preston Knowles’ college career, it quickly became obvious that Knowles was the one player Louisville could not afford to lose in a continuing saga of injuries this season. The leader, the indispensable, the soul of this team, as he went so did his team.

Knowles was the inspiration, the conscience. the motivator, the glue. Without him there was no synergy.

The memories that will linger from this game unless we choose to completely block it from our memories include Preston hopping along on one leg, hopefully to find a quick cure in the dressing room, Preston in agony wanting the pain to go away just long enough to finish the game. Preston helplessly watching his teammates finish without him, pleading for them to get the job done. Preston sitting on the bench all by himself after the game.

Without Knowles this was a very ordinary team. A rare commodity, and he is gone.

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Should be used to it by now but every time Terrence Jennings misses one of those easy lay ups, the observer lets loose with a stream of expletives. One of his advisors says Jennings lacks balance, a way of saying he’s not very coordinated. But if one has been in the gym every day for the past 10 or 15 years, there should be a way to compensate.

On the other hand, no one is better than Jennings when it comes to shot blocking other big men. This is when he becomes focused and intimidating. He blocked four of Kenneth Faried’s shots today, all but canceling out that portion of Faried’s game. Jennings is Dr. Jekyll on defense and Mr. Hyde on offense.

Might be a good idea for him to place a call to Felton Spencer who had a bit of “balance” problem when he was a freshman. Took a few ballet lessons, improving his coordination. Wound up having a nice NBA career.

Maybe some chiropractic assistance? Or possibly one of those Wii fitness games could be the key. Hey, we’re just trying to be helpful. Find a cure and U of L is a contender again. 

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Rick Pitino will shoulder the responsibility for the loss. But it was also Pitino who transformed a team with no returning starters to being one of the all-time favorite Louisville teams. A team, he said, that restored his faith in young people, that made him feel young again, that made him fall in love with coaching all over again.

While the early exit in the first round is disappointing, he is the same coach who turned a “bridge” year into an unbelievably successful season, bringing back memories of great Louisville teams from the past, making it possible for U of L fans to believe anything was possible.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

15 thoughts on “Morehead ousts shaky Louisville

  • March 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm
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    Here is a list of possible Pitino replacements.
    Brad Stevens – Butler: He’ll be here in a heartbeat, recruit big men who play big.
    Matt Painter – Purdue: Might take a little extra cash to get him but he definitely would take the job.
    Greg Marshall – Wichita State: His wife already has furniture in the moving van and the car started.
    Kevin Nickleberry – Howard University: Several big schools are keeping their eyes on him.
    Ben Howland – UCLA: might want to stay where he is for a couple more years

    Josh Shertz – Lincoln Memorial University: a longshot but a coach that nobody has heard of….yet. He doesn’t need big names to win big games.

    • March 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm
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      I hope as everyone else should that Rick stays through his contract, then gets an extension. Don’t let emotions get the best of you Tom!

    • March 19, 2011 at 9:43 am
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      I think there’s a guy about 120 miles east on I-64 who is a pretty good coach too.

  • March 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm
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    As I sadly rehung my Cardinal jacket in the coat closet, I thought about these last few weeks of the season: lots of thrills, much hand-wringing, too many questions and second guesses, plenty of hype. But hey, now the anxiety can be shelved and we can go forward supporting the Lady Cards and the baseball Cards. Coach P actually prepared us for the inevitable early on, so with this loss, we can let out our collective held breaths. Kinda preferable to the agony of getting even closer to Houston and then losing. As ever, Go Cards!

  • March 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm
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    This game was lost Saturday night with all the wear, tear and hurt on Preston Knowles and Peyton Siva. I don’t know how Siva even made to the floor this afternoon with the way he was hurting in New York. Knowles took a beating as well and was not himself today. The conference tournaments have taken a lot of the fun out of the game.

  • March 18, 2011 at 8:22 am
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    Don’t blame Pitino for this loss. Don’t go about compiling a Pitino replacement list. When Preston Knowles hopped to the sidelines, this one was over.

    Let’s hope that this “bridge” Rick is building contains a very sturdy support beam to replace the truss that was Knowles. Forget the loss and root on your Lady Cards on Sunday.

  • March 18, 2011 at 11:21 am
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    This team should be able to beat Morehead without Preston Knowles. Yesterday was a sad, sad, effort. Pitino and the players both get the blame for this.

    They were not motivated or too tired, whatever. That’s on Pitino.

    They didn’t hit shots, free throws, stupid passes. That’s on the players.

    And it never should have come down to that last play. Marra probably would’ve airballed it anyway.

    • March 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm
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      Pitino deserves some of the blame but this is the biggest stage of college basketball, coaches shouldn’t have to worry about motivation. That’s on the players, especially the upperclassmen.

  • March 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm
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    U of L was outplayed and out-coached.

    It never should’ve come down to Marra shooting a last-second shot. Why was the ball in his hands anyway?? He has one of the lowest shooting percentages on the team. Crum would’ve designed a better play – and he would’ve won this game a lot sooner than the last second.

    Too bad for Knowles…he can hang his head high. Let’s hope the Cards over-achieve next year! Go Cards. Now I guess what’s left is to cheer for Morehead State and the other Big East teams.

  • March 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm
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    Morehead St lost to Eastern Kentucky this year.

    Maybe Louisville is the fourth best team in the state behind UK, Morehead and EKU….wonder how they would against Bellarmine??

    Cards are only losing Knowles? Who have the signed?

    Go Cards

  • March 18, 2011 at 2:53 pm
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    Steve Ko, don’t you go bashing on my team, ya hear? The old adage that anybody can beat anybody on any given day is very much applicable with the level of parity in college basketball these days. U of L very well could have not been that good this season but look at what this team achieved. When the coach said “bridge year,” he was acknowledging that this team had many shortcomings. Keep your chin up, there’s always ma~nana (and football).

  • March 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm
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    SteveKo2…you are so wrong on so many levels it’s hard to pick where to start refuting your logic.

    I will say that UL seemed to look past Morehead (the proto-typical sleeper). Morehead’s head coach had attended U of L practices, they have a U of L assitant coach on their team, and play the same defensive scheme. Siva and Knowles were hurt, as was TJ, throw in a mile-high air supply and the fact that we were without our senior motivator for the last 8 minutes. Kinda puts it all in perspective.

    By the way if you don’t know who they signed, I know you are not a UL fan.

    So flame away, (I suspect you are a UK homie, anyway).

    JustCards… a real Cards fan

    • March 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm
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      I’ll have to vouch for SteveKo2. He’s definitely not a UK fan, but he is a disappointed Cards fan. We lost a game in the NCAA, and it affects people in different ways. Many of us got carried away with all the success this season, thanks to Pitino.

  • March 19, 2011 at 9:51 am
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    When it comes to how much, if at all, to blame Pitino I keep thinking about free throws. Two games in a row made free throws at the end would have sewn up the game and the opponent’s threes would have meant nothing. And we lost two other games this year for the same reason.

    We are a lousy free throw shooting team. And we have been for a lot of years. If Pitino and our staff are so good at individual instruction why can’t they improve our players’ free throw shooting. Somehow TJ has improved greatly while everyone else all too often resembles a brick mason, especially at crunch time. This is especially upsetting when point guards, the guys who bring the ball up court and handle the ball the most, are unreliable at the charity stripe.

    Good teams don’t become great teams without learning to hit free throws. This needs to be addressed at every practice until we can win games at the line instead of losing them there.

  • March 19, 2011 at 4:34 pm
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    Frankly, I expected the Cards to lose the second NCAA game, anyway. Looking at the multiple weaknesses this year, it is a testament to our young men that they won 25 games and finished so highly in the conference and conference tournament. Here’s to you, guys!
    ———
    The weaknesses we have to repair have been well-told by the observer and fans of this site, including free-throw shooting and rebounding. Let me add a couple that I referred to before the conference schedule began, in a December post.
    1. We have a substandard midrange and inside game. When the 3-pointers don’t fall, we fail to go to Plan B. Heck, we don’t even have a Plan B. And smart coach only had to overwhelm our 1 and 2, and we failed to adapt. This was the glaring weakness.
    2. We are small all over the court, both in height and reach. Some of that was injuries–but I lay most of the blame on recruiting. Do you think it was accidental that Denny had 6-4, 6-5 guards? Or that tall quarterbacks are all the rage? A guy with sub-six foot wingspan is limited doing defense, much less rebounding.

    I don’t want to take anything away from our players–they were magnificent many times, and found a way to win. But they were handicapped, and over-achieving led to injuries. Next year–there had better be some quality and size on that bench–that’s all I’m saying.

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