The soon to be ranked lower than 5th place University of Louisville Cardinals (16-4, 4-3 Big East) traveled to another hostile environment, this time in Washington D.C. to go into another conference battle against the unranked Georgetown Hoyas (14-4, 4-3). How much pressure was on the Cards? They haven't beaten Georgetown in 4 years, but they needed to so they can break a two game skid that started last Saturday at home. Despite the effort, the Cards lost 53-51.
The big question mark coming into this game was defense. It needed to improve because it left them against Villanova earlier in the week. Even though the officials let them play, the Cards settled down and got some steals and deflections which is the normal Louisville D.
Three point goals continued to be a bugaboo for the Cards as well. Georgetown started throwing them up early and they went in at a pace that seemed impossible to maintain
Russ Smith, who didn’t start, came into the game after the first television timeout for Peyton Siva. It helped keep one guard or another fresh, but it also would keep from having both guards out of simultaneous foul trouble. That strategy might not have been necessary due to the amount of contact allowed in the game, something the Cards aren't used to. All their previous games were called way tighter and it took quite a bit of time to adjust. Even though Siva had foul trouble all game, he didn’t foul out.
During a 14-4 run, Georgetown pushed open the lead. The threes kept falling for the Hoyas, probably more than they ever do in practice. The Cards played the the percentages and it didn't work like it didn't work against Villanova.
During every Cardinal rally in the first half, the Hoyas hit a three to kill it. The defensive wasn't as lackluster as their last game, but Georgetown couldn't hit that percentage of three pointers unguarded in practice. It was interesting to watch when it finally calmed down. It eventually got back down to a more normal 29.4%, but for a while, it seemed like they would all go in.
With 5 minutes to go in the first half, a double technical foul was called on both teams as emotions went high, but the funny part is that if the refs didn't let it get like a football game, the players wouldn't have gotten that way.
Louisville climbed back into the game from the free throw line because their field goal attack disappeared, but the Cards took it while with Siva spending the late first half on the bench. Considering the last game, that could be counted as a victory in itself. So in a hostile environment with officials that didn't mind tackles, the Cards only trailed 33--29 at halftime.
Within 3 minutes of the second half, the Cards took the lead even though Siva also committed his third foul. What that showed, though, is that the Louisville press started to affect the Hoyas. And it was perfect time for Luke Hancock to play as highly he's been touted. He gave the Cards 12 points and 3 rebounds in his most effective game in a long while.
It helped when the three ball stopped going in for Georgetown. But other absurdity occurred. Chane Behanan got an elbow to the face and got called for committing the foul. But after seeing how the game was played, coach Rick Pitino didn't protest that much. Behanan continued to have minimal offensive effect on a game and he’s got to figure out how to turn that around.
The Hoyas kept up their scrappy play but so did the Cards and the long afternoon continued. Georgetown climbed back into the lead as the best backcourt in the nation continued to struggle. Siva and Smith had trouble finding their range. Siva’s hurt more so than Smith because Smith at least looked to shoot. Siva only took 2 shots, missing them both. And his dribble penetration didn’t do much since he never went to the free throw line. If Siva hit his average, the Cards win. But it wasn’t to be.
Georgetown's long range shot came alive again late, even though Louisville played better defense. Countering for the Cards was Russdiculous, trying to put the team on his back. He made nearly impossible shots after bricking quite a few early in the game.
The Cards got a chance at the last shot on a late jump ball and Siva got a look at the basket, He took the shot but missed, like on every one of his shots in the game. This ends up being Louisville's first three game losing streak three years.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton