In the words of former Arizona Cardinals Coach Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were," and Tuesday night in the KFC YUM! Center, College of Charleston was just that- who we thought they were.
The #4 Louisville Cardinals improved to 11-0 Tuesday night- their best school start in over 25 years- defeating College of Charleston (9-2) 69-62. It wasn't easy, but then again, rarely is anything for this Louisville Cardinals Basketball team; who have had 4 games decided by 10 points or less this season.
“We knew this was going to be a war. This is a great team (on College of Charleston). For about 32-33 minutes into this basketball game, they were the better team." Head Coach Rick Pitino said following the game.
Charleston sunk 12 threes in the game, which allowed them to keep it close. Forward Antwaine Wiggins had 4 of those 12 and led all scorers with 23 points.
"I told them ‘Stop the 3, stop the 3’, but it’s easier said than done when you are guarding Charleston," Pitino Said, "Charleston is very good. They can pick and roll. They drive and switch and force you to pick up the help defense,"
Pitino said that the move to put Kyle Kuric, at the top of the post at the 4 spot, was a big part of the win. Kyle Kuric led the Cardinals in scoring with 19 points and also chipped in 8 rebounds. Rick Pitino credited his son and Assistant Coach Rick Pitino with the move.
"I give big credit to my son (Richard). He made the move of the game," Pitino stated, "He told me to play Kyle (Kuric) in the four slot because the middle was wide open and they weren’t playing it."
"They were leaving the high post so open,” Kuric said. “I don’t know if we just weren’t used to it, but we weren’t capitalizing on the big opening. When we got it there, we were hesitant. Coach made the change and just said to shoot the ball if you’re open.”
Going into halftime, Charleston lead 37-33 and extended it to 8 points with 17:07 left in the game. However, Russ Smith was able to come off the bench and give the Cardinals a huge boost of energy. Tying the game with a steal and slam at the 57-57, after Charleston had fought off an early 2nd half rally by the Cardinals.
"We got a lot of the work to do, as you can see we could have lost today, we could have lost Ohio, we could have lost to Vandy," Sophomore guard Russ Smith said, "I guess guys just live for this moment," Smith Said, "We all strapped up defensively and that was a big key"
Russ Smith finished the game with 12 points for his second straight double-figure game.
The Cardinals also got great play once again out of Gorgui Dieng who had his fourth straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
"It wasn't about me, It was about everybody," Dieng said, "We needed stops and I think you seen that with the way we played in the second half,"
Louisville was forced to go to a full court man to man pressure towards the end of the game. This resulted in sloppy play both sides, as Louisville forced 20 turnovers but gave the ball up 17 times themselves.
The difference was- fatigue- Louisville was able to wear the Cougars down by the end of the game causing them to execute unsuccessfully.
“We got a little fatigued out there, but we know if we’re tired, the other team is exhausted,” sophomore guard Russ Smith said. “That’s what we’re big on.”
Louisville will look to continue their undefeated season when they play Western Kentucky Friday, December 23, 7pm at the KFC YUM! Center. The Cardinals will then open up conference play with Georgetown, December 28th before playing arch-rival Kentucky three days later.
[Photos Courtesy of Courier-Journal]