That story appeared ready to resurface in 2014 on Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center. With an often roaring sold out crowd of 22,644, who spent much of the second half on their feet, the Cardinals made a furious comeback against rival Cincinnati and appeared headed to victory.
Thoughts of last year surfaced for a few moments, and seemed an almost certainty when Russ Smith hit a deep three-pointer to give the Cardinals a 64-61 lead with 5:03 left to play. Then another story resurfaced. One that we've seen from this Cardinal bunch this season. Mental mistakes become costly.
Louisville didn't lose the game because the kept fouling Cincinnati's best free throw shooter, although it did put the nail in the coffin. U of L was out-rebounded by 11 and allowed the visitors to shoot 63% from the floor in the second half. That will beat you every time.
Here's a look at a few key moments from Louisville's 69-66 loss to Cincinnati.
From the start, the visiting Bearcats attacked, both offensively and defensively. During the games first 4:22 of play, UC held the hosts to just 1 of 5 from the floor and forced two turnovers to jump out to an early lead. The Bearcats early offense included a pair of thundering fast break dunks. Russ Smith scored all three of U of L's points during the first stretch of the game. Cincinnati 8-3.
Lack of Consistency
While there were a few occasional nice individual plays, the opportunities weren't capitalized upon. A driving left-handed layup by Luke Hancock. Chris Jones' effort in forcing a tie-up off a rebound. Blocks by Wayne Blackshear and Russ Smith. There were a few others, but they all resulted in very little.
U of L converted just 2 of 10 shots from the first media timeout through the under 8 minute mark. The Cardinals also went 0-2 from the charity stripe and had four turnovers. The Bearcats offense wasn't much better, but it did score on a few fast breaks to grab a 10 point lead with 7:57 remaining in the opening half. Cincinnati 17-7
Trailing by 11 and with 6:05 remaining in the first half was a brief moment when it appeared the Cardinals were poised to make a run into the Bearcats lead. Montrezl Harrell swatted a layup attempt, Van Treese grabbed the ball and found a streaking Russ Smith for a layup.
Turnovers on their next two possessions limited the Cardinals offensively. The Bearcats built their biggest lead of the first half following a three-pointer by Ge'Lawn Guyn with 2:47 remaining in the opening frame. Cincinnati 28-13.
With senior All-American Russ Smith on the bench, the Cardinals ended the half on a 7-0 run. The offensive spurt was sparked by a Terry Rozier three-pointer and capped with a rim-shaking dunk by Montrezl Harrell.
The Cardinals forced two turnovers during the stretch and received a block from Mangok Mathiang. Cincinnati 28-20.
Coming out of the locker, the Bearcats used the three-point arc to quickly rebuild their first half advantage. Sean Kilpatrick hit a pair and Guyn hit his second of the game to outscore the Cardinals 16-7 during the first five minutes of the second half. Cincinnati 44-27.
Trailing by 17, a three-pointer by Terry Rozier ignited a run that would quickly get the Cardinals back into the game.
A fast break dunk by Harrell brought the sold out Yum! Center crowd to their feet, and appeared into the minds of the visiting to rattle the visiting Bearcats. Cardinal pressure forced a turnover, soon followed by a technical called on Titus Rubles. Following a pair of free throws from Hancock, the Cardinal pressure forced yet another turnover leading to a short Russ Smith jumper, and one.
The 14-0 run occurred in just a two-minute span. U of L forced four turnovers during the span and made 5 of 7 shots. Cincinnati 44-41.
Russ for the Lead!
Trailing 59-52 with 9 minutes to play, the Cardinals went on a 12-2 run to grab their first lead since the games first basket. A three-pointer by Smith started the scoring burst. Chris Jones connected on back-to-back jumpers – his only in the second half points – to pull U of L win two. A steal by Luke Hancock led to a fast break layup by Montrezl Harrell to even the score at 61-61.
Following a Cincinnati turnover, Russ Smith found himself in possession of the ball with the shot clock winding down. Needing a play, with no time to make it in, Smith launched a three-point attempt from about 25 feet out. It found the bottom of the net for Smith's second three-pointer of the game and with 5:03 remaining in the game the Cardinals took possession of the lead. U of L hit 8 of 9 shot attempts, including a pair of three-pointers, during the run. Louisville 64-61.
After connecting on 89% of their shot attempts during the previous five minutes, the Cardinals went 0-5 during the games final 5:03. While missing their shots, they watched as their lead disappeared at the free throw line.
Despite a Justin Jackson tip-in that gave Cincinnati the lead, the rest of the Bearcats scoring came with their best free throw shooter at the line. After being informed to do the opposite, three times the Cardinals fouled Sean Kilpatrick, an 85% free throw shooter.
Kilpatrick went a perfect 6-for-6 down the stretch to secure an important road win for the Bearcats. Kilpatrick was 11-for-11 from the line for the game. Cincinnati 69-66.
Up next for Louisville is a Saturday night conference game against Central Florida at the KFC Yum! Center.