On paper, the 12th ranked University of Louisville Cardinals should beat the #25 Marquette Golden Eagles fairly handily. Especially in light of the fact that it was a White Out game in the KFC Yum! Center as the big sports before the Super Bowl. Louisville used that inspiration to cruise to the win 70-51.
On statistical comparison before game, the Cards hit more threes (and when did you think you'd ever read that), grab more rebounds, dish more assists and score more points than Marquette.
However, teams like Georgetown, Connecticut and Cincinnati know that the Golden Eagles can be tough. They beat the Hoyas, beat UConn in overtime and took the Bearcats to overtime before succombing by 2. The hometown Cards had to bring their A-game and their A-team during the ESPN broadcast.
The game didn't start out like an A performance, though. Marquette knew they were in for a battle and came thusly equipped. The first Cardinal score was a free throw and they were stuck on that one point for a significant part of the first half.
Coach Rick Pitino went to the bench to get a spark. When fans saw formerly suspended Kevin Ware come into the game the fans showed their appreciation. Same for Wayne Blackshear who was out of the last game with a shoulder injury. Blackshear made the most of his minutes by giving his team 9 points, including a three, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
Then the defense and a warmed up Russ Smith started making moves. Peyton Siva kept the tide going in the Louisville direction as well. Gorgui Dieng swatted away 3 shots and the return of the bench led Louisville to a 38-24 halftime lead.
Louisville dominated in the paint and off turnovers, turning those aspects of the game into points. They also shot 51.9% for the game while holding the Golden Eagles to only 35.8%. Like the Cards, free throws are also not a big part of the Marquette game. They shot just 66.7% so they couldn't capitalize on the plentiful Cardinal fouls.
Smith led all scorers with 18 points. Marquette’s Vander Blue tried to keep pace with 17 of his own. The difference was that Russ gave his time 3 assists while Blue was the victim of 3 turnovers. In fact, the Cardinals dished 17 assists to Marquette’s 6. Where the Cards played unselfishly, the Golden Eagles couldn’t get the passes to the open man.
So the White Out worked and the Louisville Cardinals seem to have found their way again. Now they go on the road to take on Rutgers on Wednesday. They don’t return home to the KFC Yum! Center until Valentine’s Day for a match up with St. John’s.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton