During Monday’s 97th meeting between the 8th ranked University of Louisville basketball Cardinals (25-5, 13-4 Big East) and the Cincinnati Bearcats (20-10, 8-9) showed two teams going in opposite directions during the death throes of the Big East Conference. The Cards are riding high on a winning streak as they try to close out the season and get the double-bye in the conference tournament. Cincy wants to win to close out their season. The Cardinals reached their goal by winning 67-51.
The Bearcats have had an okay season but in their last victory over a top 25 Marquette team, they’d gone 5-5 with losses to ranked teams Pittsburgh, Georgetown and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, in that same stretch, the Cards have gone 8-4 with a win over Marquette, a split with Syracuse and a chance to split with Notre Dame later this week.
So when ESPN came to town for the Big Monday event, the stage was set for a showdown. Cincinnati defends well, but Louisville is the best in the country. The Bearcats struggle to score but the Cards are better, if only by a little.
And to add to the multiple storylines, Cincy coach Mick Cronin served as associate head coach in Louisville under Rick Pitino in 2002 and 2003 making it another student vs. the master game. As long as Pitino has coached, that’s going to keep happening. And then there’s one more. Coach Pitino was going for his 300th victory as Louisville’s coach.
Senior point guard Peyton Siva set the tone early, driving the lane and finishing at the rim in direct contrast to his performance in Saturday’s Syracuse game. The game plan seemed to be to let the guards take over the game so Siva and his backcourt mate Russ Smith kept the Bearcat defense hopping.
Cincinnati countered with great three point shooting. That’s one of those patterns against Louisville. Teams that do so-so from the arc seem to put it in against the Cardinals, this time to the tune of 6 of 14 for their long range shooting. It’s what kept them in the game because Louisville outplayed them on both sides of the court. Siva led everyone in the first half with 11 points after not scoring at all on Saturday. Smith was right behind him with 10.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton