Louisville undone by Cal's fast start

Louisville started slowly in their NCAA Tournament first round game against California Friday night and played catchup the entire contest, falling 77-62 to the Golden Bears.

Louisville's frustrating basketball season came to a quick end in the NCAA Tournament Friday night in Jacksonville against California, 77-62.

The Golden Bears started the game on fire, breaking Louisville's press for easy layups and shooting over top the Cards zone defense for multiple three's to jump out to a 22-4 lead. California didn't seem bothered by the game's late start, delayed nineteen minutes by a shot clock problem. Louisville did.

The Cardinals weren't prepared – or energized – when the game started. While California handed out four assists on their first four baskets, Louisville committed three turnovers and missed their first five shots. Rick Pitino's team was sloppy and off the mark, falling behind 12-0 in the opening moments.


Samardo Samuels couldn't save UofL from a first round NCAA Tournament exit Friday night against Cal.
Before the game, Pitino compared California to Marquette, a team that beat Louisville by 21 late in the season. Friday night was eerily similar to that one as Louisville struggled to find ways to stop the quicker Bears, playing from behind from the start.

Louisville made a run to get back in the game late in the first half, fueled largely by their bench. While California made 11 of their 15 shots in the contest, jumping out to 30-12 advantage, Louisville got defensive to get back in the game. After Cal's hot shooting start, Louisville turned up the defensive pressure, forcing four turnovers and holding the Bears to just 4 of 15 shooting to close the half, though Cal scored the final five points to increase a 36-30 advantage to 11 at the break.

There was no quit in the Cards. Louisville battled California in the second half, cutting the Bears lead to four with 7:15 remaining behind the stellar play of freshman forward Rakeem Buckles, who scored a career-high 20 points. But Cal responded with a 12-2 spurt to push the margin back to double digits. An intentional foul, followed by a technical on Louisville's bench, put the game out of reach for the Cardinals in the final minutes.

In the end, Louisville had no answer for California's guard trio of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. Those three combined for 59 points, making 8-14 three's. Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk, Louisville's senior perimeter starters, combined for only 13 points, five turnovers and 2-10 shooting beyond the arch.

Edgar Sosa, in his final game at Louisville, never really got started, picking up three first half fouls. He was out-scored by counterpart Jerome Randle 21-8. Jerry Smith, nursing an injury on his shooting hand, scored just five points in his final game for the Cardinals. Reginald Delk went scoreless in his last game at Louisville.

Louisville finished the season 20-13, dropping three of the final four games to end the season. The Cardinals finished 11-7 in the Big East, sixth place in a league that sent eight teams to the NCAA. Louisville was the fourth Big East member to lose in the first round. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova and West Virginia won their opening round NCAA Tournament game.


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