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.
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:
Saint Louis was struggling with turnovers early in the game. ESPN Stats and Info tweeted the repercussions of these errors:
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:
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:
After a first half filled with poor shooting and plenty of mishaps from both teams, Louisville led by a score of 25-16.
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'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:
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:
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:
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:
Wolken also tweeted a comment that Pitino made regarding the difficulties he's had with his squad over the past few years:
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.