They waltzed into Freedom Hall brimming with confidence and demonstrated what proved to be a false sense of superiority during pregame warmups, laughing it up as if they expected to breeze through town for win number fourteen.
Before the starters were announced prior to tip off, they huddled at midcourt to show their lack of respect to both the crowd and the home team by jumping and dancing up and down on the mascot representing their opponent.
But in the end, the team that entered Freedom Hall so confident of victory and with such lack of respect for it's most fierce rival, had it handed to them in dominating fashion by a hungry, hard nosed group from Louisville.
"Things have been too easy for us and we got a little giddy," Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins said. "This is embarrassing and I'm embarrassed."
So mark this one down Jay Bilas and be sure to take note. This was no patsy being beaten down. This was ESPN's, the organization you represent, fifth ranked team...in America!. This was Cincinnati, a team as deep, talented and physical as they come these days.
And for the third time in 15 games, the University of Louisville, ranked fifth this week in the Associated Press poll, has knocked off a top five opponent when the Cardinals took them out, including two number one's in Florida.
Here's the bottom line: Louisville 93, Cincinnati 66. It was about as impressive and dominating a performance as any team has shown to this point in the season.
Rick Pitino's squad simply took the fight right at Bob Huggins' aggressive troops and then took it right at them some more. In fact, Louisville was so relentless in taking the action to the Bearcats they shot 27 free throws...and that was just in the second half of action. All told, Louisville made three more from the charity stripe (29) than the Bearcats attempted (26).
"I have to tell you, this is one of the big things and I say this all the time, they didn't make their free throws," Pitino said. "They missed them and we made a high percentage most of the night."
And that's essentially how Louisville won the game. The Cards were clearly the more fundamentally sound team on the court Wednesday night. They found the open man to the tune of 19 assists. Converted point guard Taquan Dean and mates took care of the ball against UC's relentless pressure, committing just 12 turnovers against a team forcing more than 20 per game. And once again, Louisville played extraordinary defense, limiting an explosive Cincinnati offense to a season low point total. And when the Bearcats misfired, Otis George, Luke Whitehead and the rest of the gang hauled in the important rebounds.
"We beat a great basketball team tonight," Pitino said. "The great respect we had led to this play. You have to have great spacing against their press. We did a good job eliminating the three and we didn't turn it over. I am real proud of our guys, especially Taquan."
And what can you say about the converted point guard who played through a painful groin injury and turned in a spectacular performance?
He made the cluctch shots, nailing 5-10 three's, took care of the ball and gave an incredible effort on defense to help shut down the Bearcats explosive duo of Field Williams and Tony Bobbit.
Sure these Cardinals aren't fancy, and individually they're not the most talented, either. But together, this team certainly is one of the top teams in the nation and they appear to have the ingredients and characteristics of a champion in the making.
"They have great pride and character," Pitino said of his troops. "We have real good personnel but if you go one-by-one you wouldn't be impressed. But when you put them together, it's a great team. And I've had a few teams like that."
Where now for these Cardinals?
Next up, they'll face a stern test in Knoxville Sunday evening as they'll try to knock off the SEC's Volunteers on its home court for the second straight season.
It won't be easy to be sure, especially coming off an emotional win over its conference rival. But don't expect a letdown. Their coach has been here before. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. And the players, through their words, continue to speak of focus and improving.
"We have to stay focused," said senior forward Luke Whitehead of the upcoming schedule. "We're just now starting to find who we are…we don't think that we are that good right now."
And while Whitehead might not be impressed with his team's performance this season, there's a lot more people around the nation right now who think otherwise and are starting to seriously take notice of the Cardinals...and maybe even ole' Jay Bilas is one of them.