Louisville basketball: Chris Mack and the Cards stunned by Pitt in OT

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 06: Christen Cunningham #1 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball against the Miami Hurricanes at KFC YUM! Center on January 6, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 06: Christen Cunningham #1 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball against the Miami Hurricanes at KFC YUM! Center on January 6, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

January 16th, 2010: Ke$sha’s “Tik Tok” was the number one song in the country, Avatar had just broken a box office record set by Titanic as it set atop box office charts, and was also the last time Pitt defeated Louisville basketball.

A Wednesday night 8pm tip-off for Louisville basketball’s first ACC road game of the season against what I was thinking was a lowly Pitt team.

Louisville had won 12 straight against the Panthers., going all the way back to 2010. I was pretty taken back when I saw Kenpom only had Louisville favored by 1 while Vegas had it at 3.5 as of game time so I should have been as taken back as I was by an overtime thriller. Pitt is an extremely young team that last 9 players from a year ago, no way could they knock off Louisville.

The first half was pretty sloppy. Littered with turnovers and no real flow to the offense I sat on the couch awaiting Jordan Nwora to catch fire and bring The Cards back out of the hole they dug themselves while the freshman Pitt back court just had their way with Louisville.

While in the second half UL pulled within 3 a few times they just could not stop Trey McGowens on his way to sitting the Pitt freshman scoring record of 33 points. The Panthers were just too much for the Cards while breaking not only their 23 game ACC win-less streak but also ending their 12 losing streak to Louisville.

The Good: The Second Half and Over Time Fight

Last season under Coach David Padgett the narrative on more than one occasion was the team quit. This was not the case last night against Pitt however. Even with the ugly first half that left The Cards down by 10 the second half fight was there, Louisville got down by as much 16 at one time also pulled within one bucket on a few occasions. This is a Louisville team that might quite literally live and die by the 3 point shot, shooting just 18% from 3 in the first half the 44% in the second is how the Cards got back into the game and was able to force overtime.

The fight was led once again by point guard Christen Cunningham with 23 points and 5 assists. CC was the one guy who had a great shooting night going 9-11 overall and 2-3 from beyond the arc. Cunningham was getting to the rim almost at will and continues to improve on is game.

While it is harder to find positive takeaways in a loss another small victory was had on the glass as Louisville won the battle of the boards 41-31 led by everyone’s favorite utility man, Dwayne Sutton with 11 one his way to a double double as he put up 12 points as well.

I also noticed the box score for the Cards scoring was a little more balanced than I thought watching the game unfold. CC led the way, my boy Ryan Mc dropped 14 as he continues to shot the ball with confidence, Dwayne as mentioned before continues to play well with 12 and 11, and then a huge plus was The Enochness monster really stepping up late in the second half and going 6 – 9 with 14 big points. Enoch becoming a contributor on the offense end really gives the Cards offense a different look and they do not have to settle for a contested three point shot as often.

The Bad: The Defense

While defense is on a short list of things to be concerned about with this Louisville team, it is a major deficit. Pitt continuously was able to split two Cardinal defenders and get to the hole at will. The constant switching by UL led to Enoch being stranded, defending a smaller Pitt guard who was able to either shoot over or blow by the Louisville big. When Malik Williams  is on the floor he can defend all five positions very well the constant switching still led to Pitt getting the mismatches they wanted and exploiting them at a high clip.

There are no freshman on this Louisville team. This roster has been through all the staff turnover of the past few seasons. Pitino’s match up zone defense was hard for a lot of guys and the three (VJ, McMahon, and Agau) had a hard time learning it and when Padgett stepped in last season the new faces had such a hard time with it Coach finally ditched it and we saw the Cards playing more man and traditional zone than we had saw in over 10 years. All that said to think Chris Mack and his team could come in and ingrain another new defense and there not be any growing pains would be unrealistic.

While watching this game live it never felt Louisville was in it even with making a few runs, pulling within one position, and even forcing overtime it always felt as Pitt was just outplaying UL and that’s a feeling no one had since Avatar was the number one movie in America.

The toughness to stay in the game was a positive and a huge building block for this team. I still have all faith in the world in Coach Mack, his staff, and this Cardinals team. I still think this is a NCAA tournament team and I still think at some point they can crack the Top 25. Yes a loss to Pitt was a hard pill to swallow, a pill we had not taken since 2010, but I think much like Mack’s Cardinal team Capel’s Pitt team is going to surprise the talking heads this year.

Next. Game grades: Louisville basketball uses late rally to force OT, but falls to Pitt. dark

Next up for Louisville is another ACC road game against perennial power North Carolina. UNC is currently sitting at number 12 in the land and a win over another top 15 team while on the road in conference would be huge for this Cardinals team. As always Go Cards!