After a huge and exciting win at UConn on Sunday, one would have thought that the Louisville Cardinals would take this positivity into the Bradley Center against the Marquette Golden Eagles, and guarantee themselves a spot in the NCAA's with a win. Instead, they put out an effort that was a mirror image of the second half against the Georgetown Hoyas, just one game before UConn. Fouls and free throws were the special of the day and Marquette had a feast fit for a king.
The Golden Eagles shot 22 free throws, making 18 for 81%. The Cardinals, on the other hand, shot 1 of 2 from the line. That is not a typo, only ONE PLAYER went to the free throw line! That one player wasn't an experienced senior, but freshman forward Rakeem Buckles. The Cardinals got off to a hot start, making two threes and a jumphook by senior guard Jerry Smith, to go up 8-3 in the first 2 minutes. From there Marquette settled down and implemented a suffocating 2-3 ,trapping in the post, zone that left sophomore center Samardo Samuels frustrated the entire night, keeping him from going to the basket and making passes out of the post. On offense, Marquette guards Darius Johnson-Odom and Maurice Acker ran the dribble-drive offense and took advantage of a lackluster Cardinal defense to score 22 and 15 points, respectively. The first half ended with the Golden Eagles ahead 33-23. In the second half, The Cardinals shooting woes continued as they were held scoreless for the first 7 minutes. The Cardinals fought back to bring the defecit to 10, but ran out of gas to end the game, losing by 21, 69-48.
Samardo Samuels easily had his worst game of the year. Scoring only 4 points on 2 for 5 shooting, he was literally shutdown the entire night. Samuels had no answers for a zone that trapped him down low every time he touched the ball. To make matters worse, he had a game high 5 turnovers. If he wasn't getting the ball slapped out of his hands, he was throwing an errant pass out of the post. I'm no Phog Allen, but major adjustments should have been made in the game with Samuels. When a post player is double teamed in the post, he can do one of two things. He can either pass the ball to a man cutting to the basket or take the ball to the double team and try to get fouled. Samuels did neither of these things and came up with 1 assist and no trips to the free throw line. Not getting fouled was especially frustrating because he could, and should have, controlled the entire game against a lineup whose tallest starter was 6-6! Samuels seemed out of it, and a second behind, from the tip. Realizing this, it seemed like Coach Pitino gave up on using him and benched him for most of the second half. He's just got to be ten times more aggresive moving forward.
Senior point guard, Edgar Sosa, didn't have that much better of a game than Samuels. He ended up with 9 points on 4 for 10 shooting, 3 assists and 3 turnovers. Marquette kept Sosa quiet by shutting down his trademark bull rushes to the basket, and constantly having a hand in his face when he was shooting.
Senior shooting guard, Jerry Smith, got 5 points in the first 2 minutes of the game and absolutely dissapeared the rest of the game. In front of many family and friends, an already dissapointing season for Smith just got a little worse. The wrong time and place for a senior to have a letdown.
Junior guard, Preston Knowles had a bad game putting up a goose egg on 0 for 3 shooting. If the starters are having a bad game and the Cardinals sixth-man is having a bad game, that's a recipe for disaster.
In a game where the Cardinals should have completely dominated the Golden Eagles in the low post all night, they brought nothing to the table in terms of energy, offense or defense. They just looked they were sleepwalking and going through the motions. To be beat at the free throw line by an undersized team 18 to 1 is beyond frustrating. Key adjustments were not made for whatever reason, be it coaching or players, and the end result was an awful game all around. If I knew what was wrong with this team, I'd be in coaching, but I do know something has to change across the board and it starts with the players energy. This is one of the least energetic teams I have seen in a long time. If the Cardinals bring this same type of effort to Freedom Hall on Saturday at 2 on ESPN, then it's going to be a more than bittersweet closing to Freedom Hall. I have Cardinal faith that we will close the Hall in grand fashion.