DePaul Blue Demons vs. Louisville Cardinals – Saturday, February 18th, 11 a.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
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Inside The Ville
Foul free-throw shooting mystifies Pitino
Louisville's six-game winning streak ended in excruciating fashion Monday, as it failed to score over the final 3:40 and dropped a 52-51 home decision to Syracuse.
If there's one part of the game where coach Rick Pitino hopes to see some improvement when the Cardinals next take the court at DePaul on Saturday, it's the team's free-throw shooting.
The Cardinals missed nine of their 21 attempts at the line in defeat. Most of those misses came early, costing the team a chance to build up a cushion on a night when neither team found it easy to score from the field.
"When it comes down to it, it is very simple, we didn't make free throws -- that is what is so bothersome to me," Pitino said. "Twelve-for-21 with the amount of time we spend on it is inexcusable."
"I can't answer to why guys make or miss. I just know we spend a lot of time. We make them usually in crunch time, but when it comes down to when you play Syracuse ... you have a difficult time scoring against them."
Scoring was impossible down the stretch, and Louisville couldn't come up with an open shot in the final minute. Peyton Siva turned the ball over on the last full possession, and a play designed for Angel Nunez at the buzzer never panned out.
A close defeat against the No. 2 team in the country is hardly a disgrace, but Pitino was already looking ahead to seek revenge.
"There are no moral victories. We are crushed with this loss -- absolutely crushed. We didn't get the job done, when we should have," he said. "Give credit to Syracuse, they are a good basketball team. The only thing that will erase this loss is to beat them up there."
He'll get his chance. The Cardinals make the trip up to the Carrier Dome on March 3 on the final day of the regular season.
STAR WATCH: Gorgui Dieng continues to be the rock in the middle for the Cardinals, and now he's starting to figure out how to stay in games. The sophomore center missed just seconds of the 52-51 loss to Syracuse, and he contributed nine points and 10 rebounds. He also had four blocked shots, giving him 85 for the season, fourth most in school history. However, there's only one player ahead of him: Pervis Ellison, who had 92 blocks in 1985-86, 98 in 1988-89, and 102 in 1987-88.
Cardinals show good signs in close win over WVU
--Louisville and West Virginia have played some barnburners over the years, and Saturday's game was no exception. In fact, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino joked after the game that one of the benefits of the game was that it would be the last time his team would have to make the trip to Morgantown for the foreseeable future, since the Mountaineers are leaving for the Big 12 after this season.
That aside, the big takeaway heading into the final weeks of the regular season isn't that Louisville delivered a critical blow to a rival's NCAA Tournament hopes, but that the Cardinals showed they can win without their critical pieces playing well even in a hostile environment.
Gorgui Dieng battled foul problems and had two points and six rebounds in his 26 minutes. Chane Behanan, who had been on a roll in recent games, also struggled. Kyle Kuric was limited to 25 minutes, in part because of his coach's frustration at his lack of rebounding.
But the Cardinals won anyway, 77-74, and came back from a 13-point second-half deficit to do so. Wayne Blackshear played a big role off the bench and looks like a difference-maker, and the Cardinals broke out the press down the stretch and hounded the Mountaineers into four turnovers in the final five minutes.
It had the feel of an NCAA Tournament game, and if the Cardinals can show that resilience in March they will be in good shape. Winning a game like that without getting much from their inside players, in particular Dieng who has been all but indispensable, bodes well for the stretch run.
--This surge in February isn't a rare thing for the Cardinals under Rick Pitino. Louisville is 40-12 in February since 2005, and is 32-6 in that month since 2007.
--Louisville has tended to have problems against West Virginia on the boards, and the Feb. 11 game was no exception. The Mountaineers had 27 rebounds by halftime, the most against the Cardinals since WVU had 28 in the first half in March last year. Louisville was outrebounded 39-32 for the game and gave up 17 offensive boards, but outrebounded WVU 17-12 in the second half.
--The Cardinals had just eight turnovers against West Virginia, their fewest all year. Since Louisville joined the conference for the 2005-06 season, it's had single-digit turnovers in a league game just five times. The last came in March of 2011, when it had seven against South Florida.
BY THE NUMBERS: 13-for-15 -- Louisville's numbers from the free-throw line against West Virginia. That's an 86.7 percent performance, the best the team has shot the ball from the line all year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at DePaul, Feb. 18
KEY MATCHUPS: Louisville has dominated DePaul forever, having won eight straight in the series and 20 of the last 22. When the teams met earlier in the season, the Cardinals won 76-59 despite being without an injured Kyle Kuric. Cleveland Melvin struggled when the teams first met this season, going 3-11 from the floor, and the Cardinals defense held the Blue Demons to 34.3 percent shooting from the floor.
FUTURES MARKET: Wayne Blackshear made his Louisville debut in Saturday's victory over West Virginia, and it was an extended one. He played 20 minutes, went 5-for-9 from the field and scored 13 points.
--Junior G Peyton Siva had eight points when he picked up his third foul with 6:42 to play in the first half. He sat the rest of the opening half and wasn't the same offensive player after the break, going scoreless, missing his only shot from the floor and turning the ball over twice. He did, however, record three assists, the last of which came on a Chris Smith 3-pointer that gave the Cardinals a 49-46 lead late in the second half.
--Senior F Kyle Kuric had a tough time finding good looks against a Syracuse zone that seemed determined not to let him get too open. He went 1-for-8 from the floor and was held to three points, his second-lowest point total of the year. "We were going to play Kuric the whole game; he's averaging about 30 against us for his career," Syracuse coach Jim Boehiem said afterward. "He's not All-Big East against us, he's All-American."
The Last Time
Just one month ago, on January 14th, 2012, the Blue Demons dropped a 76-59 loss to No. 14 Louisville at the KFC YUM Center.
Cleveland Melvin had an off day scoring only eight points and committed six turnovers. Brandon Young finished with 14 points for the Blue Demons.
Russ Smith scored 25 points for the Cardinals, while Chris Smith added 20.
Louisville's Gorgui Dieng finished with a double-doule of 13 points and 14 rebounds while shooting shot 50.9 percent from the field.
# NAME HT WT POS CL HOMETOWN (PREVIOUS SCHOOL)
1 Angel Nunez 6-7 190 F FR Washington Heights, N.Y. (Notre Dame Prep)
2 Russ Smith 6-0 160 G SO Brooklyn, N.Y. (Archbishop Molloy/South Kent)
3 Peyton Siva 6-0 180 G JR Seattle, Wash. (Franklin)
4 Rakeem Buckles 6-7 215 F JR Miami, Fla. (Monsignor Pace)
5 Chris Smith 6-2 195 G SR Millstone, N.J. (Manhattan)
10 Gorgui Dieng 6-11 235 C SO Kebemer, Senegal (Covenant/Huntington Prep)
11 Luke Hancock 6-6 200 F JR Roanoke, Va. (George Mason)
12 Zach Price 6-10 235 C FR Louisville, Ky. (Jeffersontown)
13 Mark Jackson, Jr. 6-3 210 G RS FR Brooklyn, Calif. (Taft)
14 Kyle Kuric 6-4 195 G/F SR Evansville, Ind. (Memorial)
15 Tim Henderson 6-2 185 G SO Louisville, Ky. (Christian Academy)
21 Jared Swopshire 6-8 200 F RS JR St. Louis, Mo. (IMG Academy)
22 Elisha Justice 5-10 175 G SO Dorton, Ky. (Shelby Valley)
23 Kevin Ware 6-4 185 G FR Conyers, Ga. (Rockdale County)
24 Chane Behanan 6-6 245 F FR Cincinnati, Ohio (Bowling Green)
25 Wayne Blackshear 6-5 225 G/F FR Chicago, Ill. (Morgan Park)
33 Mike Marra 6-5 200 G JR Smithfield, R.I. (Northfield Mt. Hermon School)
44 Stephan Van Treese 6-8 235 F JR Indianapolis, Ind. (Lawrence North)
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