Louisville Rollercoaster: The Ups-and-Downs of the 2009-10 Season
This Louisville Cardinals team coached by Rick Pitino had high aspirations coming into the 2009-10 season. The Cardinals were ranked inside the top 25 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls in the preseason.
However, coming into the season they were immediately knocked out, comparable to both their Big East and NCAA Tournament runs.
Although this Louisville season did hoist some rather great moments to be a Cardinal, there were some embarrassing moments as well.
Here are the moments that highlighted this Louisville basketball program.
22-point Home Loss to Charlotte
The Cardinals welcomed in the Charlotte 49ers that were currently unranked but hoisted a (5-1) record.
Louisville on the other hand came in ranked No. 18, also with a 5-1 record and flawless at home. You look at the schedule and think, man this is a total mismatch, Louisville should not be susceptible to an upset. But that is the magic of college basketball.
The 49ers came into the game and took over Freedom Hall.
Louisville only obtained one lead throughout this game and that came with 19:07 left in the first half when the score was 2-0. Other than that, it was all Charlotte.
Raining three balls after three balls, this pushed the lead to 47-32 at halftime. Many Louisville fans expected a wake up call from the Cardinals but the 49ers dominance continued and Charlotte rolled to a 22 point victory over the highly favored Cardinals.
There was one starter in double digits and three over five points. The 49ers out-rebounded them by grabbing an astounding 46 rebounds, and hitting 10-three point shots.
This was the largest home deficit in the Rick Pitino era at home at the hands of one of the most unlikely teams in the NCAA to do so—the Charlotte 49ers.
Loss at home to Western Carolina
As if losing to Charlotte at home wasn’t enough. Following the embarrassing home loss to the 49ers, the Cardinals were in need of redemption. Trying to bring grace back to the Louisville nation and get their season back on track.
Well I don’t believe the Cardinals got the memo and turned over what would have been a much-needed win.
The Cardinals were once again stunned on their home floor, dropping their second in a row against a team they could have defeated easily.
This loss was a result of stifling defense. Western Carolina was able to force 20 turnovers, and senior guard Edgar Sosa led the way with a game high 7 turnovers.
In a game where the Cardinals dished out 21 assists, the 20 turnovers were killers and Louisville was once again out-played by the opponent.
Defeated No. 3 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome
Louisville season was in need of a marquee win to stay in the hunt for a NCAA tournament berth.
Coming in (15-9) overall and (6-5) in the Big East, none of those wins came against quality opponents. At the time you could have made a case for UConn but their season was just as lumpy as Louisville’s.
The Cardinals Rick Pitino has had the success against Syracuse over the years. Coming in beating them four straight times.
Syracuse was a totally different team and looked to end the streak and win their first game against Louisville since February of 2006.
The game was highly contested throughout, and despite the No. 3 ranking, Syracuse’s rock hard zone was folding to the pass-happy Cardinals which resulted in just an one-point lead at half.
Doing it with a team effort, the Cardinals continued to move the ball around the arc and get the open looks.
Louisville continued to work its defense on standout Wesley Johnson, and the game was decided in the last 60 seconds. Many suspected Louisville to have trouble with Syracuse’s zone but it was the complete opposite.
In the last seconds of the game, Johnson made an attempt at the basket that went under the rim and hit nothing, Louisville obtained the rebound and Sosa sent it off to Rakeem Buckles for the exclamation point.
The Cardinals grasped that marquee win they needed and was ready for college basketball to accept them as contenders.
Edgar Sosa's Layup Tops UConn
Anytime you hit a game winning shot, (no matter the opponent) it needs to be noticed.
Senior guard Edgar Sosa grasped the leadership role in the game and prevailed in the end.
Although he shot poorly (1-of-7) before attempting the game winner, he stayed composed, under control and knew what he was doing. This resulted in a game-winning lay-up and a road win over the surging UConn Huskies.
This spoiled the Senior Night of UConn and gave the Cardinal a 78-76 road victory.
Sosa ended up with six points, and six assists.
Kyle Kuric and Louisville Close Freedom Hall With a Bang
Talk about a storybook ending to Freedom Hall.
Rick Pitino and his Cards’ had defeated Syracuse five straight times coming in. Earlier this year, the Cardinals used their stifling zone to bother superstar Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins—things were no different here, except for one thing.
Senior guard Jerry Smith went down with an injury early in the first half. This forced Pitino to stretch his young but talented bench. First, it was the All-American Peyton Siva who came in for the injured senior.
Siva stepped up and ignited a run for Louisville that placed them in the lead 55-48 with 11 minutes left.
However, when sophomore guard Kyle Kuric hit the floor, nobody expected such a performance out of him.
Kuric started on the defensive end where he stole the ball and went down for the slam. Then after that came the three balls—Kuric hit four three pointers on the day.
Kyle Kuric’s amazing performance and maturity to step up in the spotlight put a wide grin on Louisville’s face. Kuric ended with 22 points all that came in the second half and led the Cardinals to 78-68 victory of then No. 1 Syracuse.
Big East Defense Cut Short by the Bearcats'
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.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the momentum swung with Cincinnati, and all teams with first round byes won except for Louisville.
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 grabbed 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.
Louisville's Season Ended After the Loss to Cal
Louisville got off to an arrant start—allowing the Golden Bears to start the game off on a 12-0 run before scoring the first basket.
Louisville trailed throughout the whole game, but down by as much as 18, the Cardinals refused to go away, and clawed into the Cal lead, bringing it four with less than 10 minutes to go.
Soon after, Louisville tolerated a three-point basket that kindled an 8-2 run to compel the lead back to ten.
This was when Cal continued to maintain their dominance with brief assistance from Louisville on the way.
Late in the game, Louisville’s guard Kyle Kuric was whistled for an intentional foul, which resulted in a Rick Pitino technical—enabling the Golden Bears to push the lead to 14—and this put the nail in the coffin.
The Cardinals capped the game just the way it began, allowing a 12-0 run to open the game, and to close it, leaving a sour taste in the Cardinals mouth as they became another Big East team that was bounced in the first round.
The Season is Over
Edgar Sosa – G
Jerry Smith – G
Justin Smith, SG No. 15, No. 50 overall in ESPNU 100
Best Game of the season:
Louisville, Syracuse 78-68 last game in Freedom Hall.