After an historic game to close Freedom Hall, once again, the Louisville Cardinals found a way to lose a perfectly winnable game against an inferior opponent. The Cardinals took a positive 1st half lead of nine points into halftime, only to start off the second half with one of their patented 7 minute scoring droughts, losing the lead and falling 66-69 to the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The Cardinals, namely senior guard Edgar Sosa, started the game out smoking hot, making 3's seemingly at will in his home city. Louisville took advantage of 28% shooting from the field by the Bearcats to build up a 9 point lead going into the half. Louisville also had a big lead despite being badly beaten on the offensive boards 18 to 6. This glaring lack of offensive rebounding would come to haunt them later. Soon after the second half began, it was deja' vu all over again in terms UofL's offensive ineptitude. Edgar Sosa scored 5 points in the first minute and a half, from there, the Cardinals literally dissapeared from the scoring column for a FULL 7 MINUTES!!! until Samardo Samuels scored on a free throw. At that point, the score was 47-45 and the Bearcats confidence level was alive and well after a lackluster first half. The Bearcats built the lead up to 7 before Louisville staged a late comeback to be down only 1 ,66-67, on a Reginald Delk 3 pointer. After 2 free throws from the Bearcats, to make it 69-66, Edgar Sosa came down the court and promptly had the ball stripped with time running out on the clock. Game Over. Cards fly home early on a negative note.
Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. The Cardinals were badly beaten in the rebounding category, 54-33. Sadly that wasn't even the worst stat. 28-9 was the offensive rebounding edge for the Bearcats as they made a habit of scoring on second chance points, which is exactly what happens when you give up that many offensive rebounds. This more than made up for their bad shooting from the field. One of Cincinnati's GUARDS had just as many rebounds,9, than Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings, COMBINED! Like I've said a million times before, rebounding is a sheer act of will. You have to want the ball, and The Cardinals just were not willing to get dirty down low on this night.
Substitions. I've had issues with Coach Pitino's substitution pattern (Is there one?) all year long, ever since he refused to start Terrence Jennings at the power forward position in the beginning of the season. It's as if Coach Pitino is outcoaching himself. It's become like clockwork, the Cardinals have a good first half and build up a good lead, Georgetown and Villanova are great examples. But in the second half they come out a completely different team and fall apart losing the lead. This is where the fun begins watching Coach Pitino. When the Cardinals go on these confusing minutes long scoring droughts, Coach Pitino freaks out and begins to substitute. If his first sub doesn't work, he'll sub another player in, and if that sub doesn't work he'll sub another player in. The longer the scoring drought, the more players Coach Pitino starts shuffling in and out. Coach Pitino will yank a player, usually Sosa, the instant a player makes a defensive or offensive mistake. This does nothing for a players confidence, wondering if and when the Coach is going to bench you after a bad play. The best anology is that the Cardinals are like a computer that Coach Pitino begins to give too much information to, too fast. It becomes so much that the computer, the Cardinals, freezes. Only problem here is that the Cardinals don't have a ctrl + alt + delete button.
Edgar Sosa scoring 28 points was the WORST thing that could have happend in this game. It built up his confidence level to him thinking he could shoot anywhere ,and way, he wanted. Fundamentally speaking, THIS MAKES NO BASKETBALL SENSE! You're point guard is supposed to be the distributor and initiator of your offense. When you point guard is doing all of the shooting, this means that you have noone to get the other players involved offensively. One of the players in this game that was misused entirely was senior forward, Reginald Delk. He was PERFECT from the field, 3 pt line, and free throw line and you refuse to look for him the entire second half?! A head scratcher. I don't think that this is that advanced or unorthadox of a concept.
No effort on the offensive boards was the main reason that the Cardinals lost to a ,fundamentally unsound, playground team. The Bearcats shot terrible from the field and the three point line, yet the Cardinals still let this game slip away. The messed up thing is, Coach Pitino is far too stubborn to admit that there is something wrong and make the proper adjustments. He seems to think that, because all of his philosophies worked perfectly with his 96 UK team, then it should work with all of his teams. This is obviously not the case. No matter who the Cardinals play in the NCAA's,(Yes I'm presuming that they're in), more than a couple of things have to happen. Edgar Sosa has got to pass more than he shoots and get other players involved. Clearly, him scoring didn't work against an awful team. The Cardinals have got to get Samardo Samuels the ball ,sooner than 7 minutes left in the first half, like they did against the Bearcats. Without Samardo, they become a one dimensional shooting team and that will get you no wins fast. EVERYBODY ON THE TEAM HAS GOT TO REBOUND!!! No player on earth is good enough to think that they don't have to put forth effort on rebounding. If the Cardinals don't execute these simple rules, they will be forced to leave the Dance early.