In the first rematch game of the Big East Tournament for the Cardinals, Louisville took on Cincinnati.
Louisville concluded in the top six of the Big East, securing a one-game bye, while Cincinnati had to start off its tournament run in the first round.
After coming off the emotional win against then-No. 1 Syracuse, no one would have anticipated them to lose a close game against No. 11 Cincinnati.
In fact, if I would have asked anyone if the Cardinals would lose their second round game, I would have captured more than a no, but a full explanation too.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the momentum swung with Cincinnati, and all teams with first round byes won except for Louisville. Games like this assure that the Big East is the best conference in college basketball.
Cincinnati came into the game needing a win to solidify its desires of playing in the NCAA tournament. Early on in the game, Cincinnati played like it had nothing to lose, allowing open three-point shots and struggling on the defensive end to contain Edgar Sosa.
Thereafter the Cardinals continued to dominate the first half. After getting the lead up to at the most 12, it looked as if the Cardinals were going to walk away with a win.
But there is this thing labeled a second half that the Cardinals failed to show up for.
In the second half, Louisville started too tentative on offense. The Cardinals still stayed aggressive all game, but with that, rushed shots followed. Bad judgment and quick releases all saved Cincinnati in the game. Showing poor offensive rhythm, Louisville dug a hole that they could not get out of.
Louisville struggled all night on the glass. Cincinnati grabbed 20 offensive rebounds, which was nine rebounds off Louisville’s combined rebound totals. In fact, Cincinnati guard Jaquon Parker retained more offensive rebounds than any player on Louisville had total rebounds.
The Cardinals lost the free throw battle as well. Shooting only 14 free throw attempts, the Cardinals did not take advantage of the charity stripe, missing key free throw attempts down the stretch that would have lifted the pressure off the shoulders of Louisville.
It seems as if every time we put confidence in Louisville, they turn around and lose a game that they are supposed to win.
Earlier this season, the Cardinals defeated Syracuse, and spectators started acknowledging Louisville in the talks of Big East powerhouses. Then the Cardinals went off and lost at home to Georgetown by double digits and then were embarrassed on the road by Marquette.
This loss places Louisville out of contention for the Big East title. It's the first time the Cardinals have been bounced since losing in the first round to Pittsburgh in '08. In that year, the Cardinals elevated themselves in the NCAA Tournament before losing their Elite Eight matchup against North Carolina.
The former Big East champions cannot defend their title and now seize additional time to get prepared for the NCAA Tournament.
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