Three days after beating UNLV in a Top 25 showdown the University of Louisville was pounded on the backboards by Drexel as the Dragons shocked the Cardinals 52-46 Tuesday night at the KFC Yum! Center.
Drexel out-rebounded UofL 46-26, including 14-7 on the offensive end, to hand the 20th-ranked Cards (8-1) their first loss in their new arena, as well as their first setback of the season.
"It's obviously a disappointing loss," UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "We lost the game because we didn't rebound, it's a very simple stat. We got deflections, we didn't turn it over and we didn't shoot well, which was okay because they didn't shoot well. We got out-rebounded 46-26 and that pretty much tells the story why we lost."
But it wasn't the only key statistic.
The Cards shot just 31.9 percent from the field, including 29 percent in the second half, and went the final 8 minutes, 26 seconds with only one field goal.
They were 4-for-16 (25 percent) from three-point range, including 2-for-11 (18.2 percent) after intermission, and missed their final eight attempts from long range.
They also were 12 for 25 (48 percent) from the free throw line, including 3 of 10 in the second half.
Junior center Terrence Jennings had twice as many fouls (four) as rebounds (two) and picked up two quick fouls in the first 2:53.
"He wasn't rebounding all game, so I think it helped us get back in the game to tell you the truth," Pitino said. "He hasn't been rebounding, putting the numbers up I expect."
Jennings, Mike Marra and Rakeem Buckles - UofL's No. 3, 4 and 5 scorers respectively - barely put up any offensive numbers. They combined for five points (Jennings and Marra two, Buckles one). UofL also had a season-low eight assists on its 15 field goals.
But it all came back to rebounding.
"They came out and over-powered us on the glass," said sophomore guard Peyton Siva, who tied Preston Knowles for team-high scoring honors with 13 points. "That's been an Achilles Heel for us...Coach P said they'd come out and hit the glass and they did."
The Cards had out-rebounded their first eight foes by an average of 41.4 to 36.5, but Drexel was better.
The Dragons (7-1), who were picked to finish sixth in the Colonial Athletic Association's preseason poll after returning four starters from last season, entered the game second in the nation in rebounding margin (13.4) behind Pittsburgh. They proved why against the Cards.
"We've been rebounding like that all year," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "We rebound, that's what we do.
"We did a good job at defending and rebounding, which is pretty much what we do and I think we got the pace of the game the way we wanted it. We didn't let them run up and down, shoot a lot of threes, or let Siva out of the lane. That was one of our big things. We didn't take care of the ball like I want to, but I thought we had a chance."
The Dragons, who were coming off an overtime victory against Rider on Saturday, led 6-3 at the first TV timeout before UofL scored four straight on a layup by Kyle Kuric and a dunk by Gorgui Dieng to take a 7-6 lead. It was short-lived.
Gerald Colds - who scored a game-high 20 points - hit a three to give the Dragons the lead before Siva tied it at 9 with a pair of free throws in the first meeting between the two since the first round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament.
Drexel then reeled off seven straight points on a drive and layup down the middle of the lane by Frank Massenat, a dunk by Daryl McCoy and a three-pointer by Chris Fouch.
Buckles ended the run with a free throw before Knowles hit a three to make it 16-13.
Stephan Van Treese hit one free throw then came the oddest play of the first half when Chris Smith launched a three that bounced high off the rim, then appeared to touch the top of the backboard before Jennings appeared to touch it, then bounced into the goal. After the three officials huddled it was ruled a three. It tied the game at 17.
On UofL's next possession Siva drove baseline, turned underneath the basket, jumped and threw down a one-handed dunk to give the Cards the lead back at 19-17.
UofL maintained a lead until the final seconds of the first half when Fouch buried a three-pointer with Buckles' hand in his face with three seconds left to give the Dragons a 25-23 lead.
Drexel outrebounded UofL 20-9 in the first half, including 9-2 on the offensive end, which led to an 11-2 advantage in second-chance points.
The Cards were able to stay close, though, thanks to 13 Dragon turnovers, which UofL converted into 12 points.
Colds hit one free throw to start the second half scoring before UofL ran off 10 straight points on a basket by Jennings, a three-pointer by Siva, a layup by Siva and a three by Knowles to give the Cards a 33-26 lead. It looked like Louisville was going to cruise.
However the Dragons weren't done.
They scored eight straight to take a 41-38 lead with 9:45 to play. UofL retook the lead on back-to-back baskets by Knowles, but Samme Givens' layup with 8:09 remaining gave the Dragons the lead for good.
The Cards had several chances in the final eight minutes, but missed shots, missed free throws and missed block outs added up to too many missed opportunities for UofL.
"I don't think our guards did a good job of helping our big men out (rebounding)," Knowles said. "I didn't do a good job of rallying my guys in the second half. I take full responsibility."
Knowles was 5-for-14 from the field, including only 1 of 3 from the foul line, while Siva was 3-for-9 from the field and 6 of 10 from the charity stripe.
"We know what we have to work on, it can't happen again," Siva said.
McCoy and Givens led Drexel with 10 rebounds apiece, while Buckles was the only Card with more than five boards, he had six.
"They blocked out terrific," Pitino said. "I think their big guys just rebounded the ball really well and our big did not. We didn't get rebounds out of the three-spot (small forward) and we didn't get rebounds out of the five-spot (center).
"They had a short turnaround too, and they were on the road. They deserved the victory, we didn't. No excuses. We had time to prepare, and we didn't, but neither did they. You have to give them all the credit. We did not play well. We did not rebound well. You don't rebound, you don't get out on the break and you don't do the little things that help you score."
UofL hosts Gardner-Webb at 3:37 p.m. Saturday.