It was a tale of two halves for both of these teams on Saturday. The Louisville Cardinals and Saint Louis Billikens competed in a messy affair over the first half but brought on some fireworks in the second. In the end, it was the Cardinals that emerged victorious by a score of 66-51.
The defending champs are headed back to the Sweet Sixteen! Louisville defeats Saint Louis 66-51. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 22, 2014
Watch these highlights to see how things unfolded:
Neither team started the game off with a bang. With just eight minutes remaining in the first half, Louisville led by a score of 12-6. It appeared as though neither team could find its rhythm. Dan Wolken of USA Today tweeted his thoughts:
As offensively brutal as Saint Louis has been, Louisville isn’t exactly taking advantage. Just 12-6.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 22, 2014
Saint Louis was struggling with turnovers early in the game. ESPN Stats and Info tweeted the repercussions of these errors:
Louisville is outscoring Saint Louis 7-0 in points off turnovers and leads by 7 points at the under 12 timeout.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 22, 2014
With Saint Louis off to a sluggish start, the matchup between these two teams looked to be heavily in the favor of the Cardinals. Bret Strelow of The Fayetteville Observer tweeted a similarity between this game and a TV sitcom:
Those Office episodes where Jim had to watch helplessly as Roy was a terrible match for Pam, that's how I picture St. Louis vs. Louisville— Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow) March 22, 2014
However, the Cardinals struggled to take advantage. With three minutes remaining in the half, both teams had more turnovers than field goals. The Billikens had nine turnovers and just five field goals, while the Cardinals committed seven turnovers and made just five buckets.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Louisville Courier-Journal tweeted the phenomenon:
Louisville and St. Louis now a combined 9-for-33 from the floor with 16 turnovers and 5 missed free throws. Cards lead 16-9.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) March 22, 2014
After a first half filled with poor shooting and plenty of mishaps from both teams, Louisville led by a score of 25-16.
It wasn't pretty but Louisville leads Saint Louis 25-16 at the half. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 22, 2014
The Billikens really needed to right the ship in the second half, as shown by this tweet from ESPN College Basketball:
Saint Louis began the second half by aggressively going after points in the paint and maintaining good position for offensive and defensive rebounds. Within the first six minutes of the half, the Billikens took a two-point lead over the Cardinals.
The lead didn't last long, though. Louisville finally ended its scoring drought to take over once again. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports tweeted just exactly how long that drought lasted:
Louisville just ended a drought of 45 real time minutes (halftime a factor) between field goals.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 22, 2014
Louisville's offense kept turning on the heat, cruising to a 13-point lead shortly after—the largest lead of the game.
After gaining a comfortable distance, Louisville turned to its full-court defense to keep the Billikens at bay and ice the game. Kent Spencer of WHAS was impressed with the Cardinals' defense and strategy near the end of the contest, according to his Twitter account:
Louisville best D in 2nd half... Putting Jett at line.... Just 1-6 this half— Kent Spencer (@WHAS11Kent) March 22, 2014
As the game was nearing its end, and Louisville looked to be the team to earn a trip to the Sweet 16, Howie Lindsey of CardinalSports.com tweeted a courtside picture of head coach Rick Pitino with his team during a timeout:
Saint Louis timeout. Louisville leads 59-48 with 1:17 to go pic.twitter.com/NdOHNx5v0X— Howie Lindsey (@howielindsey) March 22, 2014
Four of Louisville's five starters finished the game with double-digit points. Luke Hancock led the way with a game-high 21 points, while Montrezl Harrell finished with a double-double, recording 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews explained his thoughts on the Cardinals, according to a tweet from Nick Stover of Louisville Athletics:
Jim Crews on Louisville: They get you out of your rhythm... They’ve got a really good team. They’re solid. #L1C4— Nick Stover (@ULFlyingCard) March 22, 2014
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke about the necessity to excel on offense after the game, according to a tweet from Dan Wolken of USA Today:
Pitino: “You hear defense wins championships…Every team can play defense at this stage. You have to have great offense to win"— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 22, 2014
Wolken also tweeted a comment that Pitino made regarding the difficulties he's had with his squad over the past few years:
Pitino: “The past three years have been one of the best experiences of my life, but this is a difficult team to coach. Very difficult."— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 22, 2014
The Billikens only shot 39.6 percent as a team. Dwayne Evans was the most efficient scorer for Saint Louis, going 7-of-12 for 16 points and adding 10 rebounds. Jordair Jett finished the game with 15 points; however, he only made three of his nine free-throw attempts on the day.
Crews made it known that Saturday's performance doesn't define his team, according to a tweet from Tom Ackerman of KMOX:
The Cardinals played well down the stretch, but early-game woes are not a good sign of things going forward. The team now awaits the winner of the game between No. 1 Wichita State and No. 8 Kentucky, which will take place on Sunday.
Kentucky struggled against Kansas State in Round 2, pulling out a 56-49 victory; however, Wichita State looked as good as ever, defeating Cal Poly, 64-37.
If the Shockers do advance, Louisville will have its hands full. Wichita State is a deep, experienced team and has the longest winning streak in the nation. It proved that it can flourish on the big stage, looking virtually flawless against Cal Poly.
Louisville must get off to a hotter start than it did on Saturday if the Cardinals are to continue their bid to repeat as national champions. Hancock, Harrell and Russ Smith need to get out of the gates fast in order to keep pace with the dangerous Shockers.
Rest assured, Pitino will utilize his experience and have this team ready to go for whomever they wind up facing off against in the Sweet 16.