Louisville basketball has been in this position before

Head coach Chris Mack of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Head coach Chris Mack of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

A throttling at the hands of the Tar Heels of North Carolina is about as embarrassing and demoralizing it gets for Louisville basketball who was looking forward to getting back to the floor after a 19-day Covid pause.

99. 441. Final. 54. 438

As disappointing as this loss may feel for fans, the players and coaching staff have overcome tremendous adversity to get to this point. The last time this team came off a Covid pause, they were beat in similar fashion by Wisconsin in December.

The Cardinals were throttled on the glass early by the trio of North Carolina’s Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, and Day’Ron Sharpe. Sharpe, a freshman, dominated with size, athleticism and physicality.

It never looked like Louisville had any kind of control of the game on either side of the floor. Give the Tar Heels credit. They shot the ball extremely well (61 percent) from the field. It was domination. There’s no doubting that.

The “big three” trio of late in Carlik Jones, David Johnson, and Sam Williamson shot a combined 13-for-42 on the day with a combined 28 points. Even they would tell you that’s not good enough and a sound recipe for a loss.

There were some bright spots in some sequences for senior forward Malik Williams who made his very first appearance of the season on Saturday night. In 17 minutes of action, Williams put up 4 points on 2-for-6 shooting along with 3 rebounds, an assist, and one turnover.

Much like the rest of the team, Williams looked active in the early goings of the game before he started to show fatigue and serious rust.  There were mistakes as he felt his way through the game, but it was a nice sight for Williams to be back on the floor again.

The Cardinals are going to need Williams down the stretch to remain competitive in the ACC as they look to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

Louisville has been in this place before

It’s unusual to see a Louisville team get owned the way that they were on Saturday evening. But it’s not the first time it’s happened this season. Back in December, the Cardinals were coming off of an 18-day long Covid pause. Upon return, they were destroyed by Wisconsin by a 37-point margin. And it could have been much worse.

This game showed plenty of similarities. A 19-day pause, a 44-point loss, and a whole lot of curiosity and doubt surrounding what was largely a hard performance to stomach.

What happened in the last situation?

After the loss to Wisconsin, Louisville rattled off five straight wins. There’s no reason they can’t do that again especially given that they play a very vulnerable Notre Dame team in their next matchup on Tuesday.

The Irish blew a 20-point lead to Syracuse Saturday afternoon. They are just as much (if not more) demoralized as Louisville is right now.

Turns out this team isn’t as bad as they’ve looked in the two unfortunate performances.

Despite a blowout loss, all is not lost given the situation. The Cardinals have shown confidence and mental strength to bounce back in such games.

It was a brutal loss. But this team is far from finished.