Cincinnati 69, Louisville 66

I've never followed a team less capable of handling any type of success. In order to play near their potential, these guys need constant visual reminders (scoreboards) that they aren't that good. 

When a Louisville lead is built, strange things start happening. People begin taking shots they wouldn't normally take (Jennings) because, you know, it's a big lead, I've earned it. People stop chasing after rebounds (Swop, Samardo) because, you know, someone else will go get it if I put a body on someone near me. People stop playing defense (Sosa) because, you know, I'm scoring a lot of points and we're winning, two facts that couldn't possibly be altered by my defensive performance.

This is the type of stuff you'd expect to deal with if you're coaching or following a 6th grade "C" team, not a program coming off of dual Big East championships. 

It's insanely frustrating and it's the reason a part of me (a very small part) is ready to welcome the calm and sport-less month of April with open arms. 

 Grab a goddamn rebound. 

 I'm leaving for a weekend in Las Vegas one week from today. If Preston Knowles' ankle is injured and he has to miss the NCAA Tournament, I won't go out of protest. I'm not sure what I'd be protesting (ankles?), but it feels like the right thing to do. 

 If we're down five at halftime of our tournament game and I'm at a Sports Book that offers second half betting, well then I hope you'll enjoy attending games inside "Mike Rutherford Presents: Preston Knowles and Art Carmody Rule Cardinal Arena." 

I'll also put a stipulation in my contract that says the name can never be abbreviated. SIDs will learn to deal. 

 Performance put aside for the moment, I cannot stand the way Samardo Samuels walks everywhere on the floor. It's one thing if you're an NBA All-Star center (it's still annoying, but at least you can't be accused of carrying an undeserved sense of accomplishment around), but it's another if you're a former national high school player of the year whose crowning collegiate achievement after two seasons is a questionable third team all-conference selection.

Samardo needs to quickly understand that he's 6-9, not 7-2. It doesn't matter how much his offensive skills improve this offseason, no one in the NBA is going to draft someone his size who appears as unwilling to rebound or play defense as Samuels does. A drastic increase in attitude and effort is his only ticket into the league at this point. 

 In terms of seeding, if I knew for a fact that we would have lost to West Virginia tonight, last night's loss would have been a lot easier to stomach because I think we played ourselves out of the 8/9 death game and probably into a 10 or 11 (please) situation. A win over Cincy followed by a loss to the Mountaineers and we're probably still an eight, which is basically identical to being a nine and not as good as being a ten. 

But in terms of psyche, I think the loss was awful. Louisville's first round opponent is going to be better than Cincinnati, and now the Cardinals head into that game with their most recent performance being a lackluster one against a sloppy opponent. Losing to a good team and coming off of a game that featured a higher quality of play would have been much better for this team's mentality. 

 We really miss Andre McGee's defensive intensity, but less talked about was his ability to get the ball in the hands of the right guy in the right place at the right time. 

Last night, down by two and with the game on the line, Edgar Sosa had a wide-open Reggie Delk - in the midst of a monster RRG (Random Reggie Game) - in the corner for three, but instead opted to give the ball to an equally wide-open Jared Swopshire, poised to take a baseline jumper no one outside of his former AAU coach had any faith in. 

 Lance Stephenson ripping the ball away from Swop so viciously that it knocked him to the ground coupled by the ensuing stare down was as proper a microcosm for a game as I've ever seen. 

 Not sure if it's his defense or just his overall aura, but this team is f---ing awful when Jerry Smith doesn't suit up. 

 The following is the bulk of The New York Time's postgame write-up.

Time has passed, and Sosa still has his maddening moments. For all the 3-pointers he knocked down and his explosive dribbling through Cincinnati’s press, Sosa’s decision-making — both on defense and offense — is still suspect at times, as it was Wednesday in Louisville’s 69-66 defeat to Cincinnati in the second round of the Big East tournament.

Several times Wednesday night, Pitino could be heard in an otherwise quiet Garden asking his point guard, "What are you doing?" What Louisville was not doing was winning, and as a result Cincinnati will play No. 3 West Virginia Thursday night in the quarterfinals.

Sosa finished with 28 points, shooting 10 of 16 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range. Forever looking to impress the Garden crowd, Sosa watched fellow New Yorker Lance Stephenson (12 points) seal a Bearcat win for the second straight night. Stephenson, once thought go be bound for the N.B.A. after one season, said he still had room to grow and would be back next season.

Fair or unfair, I think Sosa's Louisville legacy is already cemented. The only thing that could change it at this point would be if he spearheaded a miracle run to the Elite Eight or Final Four.

 Lots of people are saying today that Louisville "needs to be scoreboard watching." I don't buy it, but I can't say that it doesn't make me more nervous than I'd be if those same people were saying that we're a lock. 

 Peyton Siva was tremendous during his first half stint, totaling four assists in six minutes. 

 Box score:



S MIN PTS FGM FGA FG% 2PA 2PA 2P% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
Cincinnati Y. Gates * 36 16 6 13 46.2 6 13 46.1 0 0 4 4 100.0 1 4 5 1 0 0 1 3
Cincinnati L. Stephenson * 29 12 4 11 36.4 4 10 40.0 0 1 0.0 4 6 66.7 1 3 4 3 0 0 3 2
Cincinnati D. Vaughn * 28 10 2 9 22.2 0 4 0.0 2 5 40.0 4 4 100.0 0 4 4 1 2 0 2 2
Cincinnati J. Parker * 28 8 3 5 60.0 3 4 75.0 0 1 0.0 2 3 66.7 7 2 9 3 2 0 1 2
Cincinnati I. Thomas * 17 8 4 10 40.0 4 8 50.0 0 2 0.0 0 0 3 5 8 0 1 0 2 4
Cincinnati D. Wilks 24 12 5 11 45.5 3 7 42.8 2 4 50.0 0 1 0.0 5 2 7 1 0 1 0 1
Cincinnati C. Wright 20 3 1 6 16.7 1 4 25.0 0 2 0.0 1 4 25.0 2 3 5 2 0 0 2 3
Cincinnati L. Davis 9 0 0 2 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Cincinnati D. Dixon 5 0 0 2 0.0 0 0 0.0 0 2 0.0 0 0 1 2 3 0 0 0 0 1
Cincinnati S. Toyloy 2 0 0 2 0.0 0 2 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Cincinnati A. McClain 2 0 0 1 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
CINC 200 69 25 72 34.7 21 54 38.8 4 18 22.2 15 22 68.2 28 26 54 12 5 1 12 18


S MIN PTS FGM FGA FG% 2PA 2PA 2P% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF
UL 200 66 24 55 43.6 14 37 37.8 10 18 55.6 8 14 57.1 9 24 33 17 6 3 12 19
Louisville P. Knowles * 35 3 1 12 8.3 0 6 0.0 1 6 16.7 0 0 0 1 1 3 2 0 0 3
Louisville E. Sosa * 32 28 10 16 62.5 5 10 50.0 5 6 83.3 3 8 37.5 1 5 6 3 0 0 2 4
Louisville S. Samuels * 31 13 5 9 55.6 5 9 55.5 0 0 3 4 75.0 2 2 4 0 0 0 4 3
Louisville R. Delk * 30 16 5 5 100.0 1 1 100.0 4 4 100.0 2 2 100.0 0 4 4 3 0 1 1 1
Louisville T. Jennings * 16 4 2 6 33.3 2 6 33.3 0 0 0 0 3 2 5 2 0 2 1 2
Louisville J. Swopshire 24 0 0 4 0.0 0 3 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 5 5 1 1 0 1 3
Louisville K. Kuric 15 0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2
Louisville R. Buckles 9 2 1 1 100.0 1 1 100.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 1 0 0 1 1
Louisville P. Siva 8 0 0 1 0.0 0 1 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 4 1 0 2 0
Louisville M. Marra 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0


S MIN PTS FGM FGA FG% 2PA 2PA 2P% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OR DR REB AST STL BLK TO PF

 There was a stretch during Cincinnati's second half run where Lance Stephenson killed us on four or five straight possessions with right-handed drives. Not making him prove that he's capable of doing the same thing with his off-hand is mind-blowing.

 The worst part about all of this is that I don't get to enjoy basketball for the next three days (momentum, potential seed and the effect on actual players be damned). No making fun of other teams' awful performances, no getting excited about the next game, no wondering if we might play a certain team in another couple of days. It sucks.

Also, no AnVillen. OK, that's the worst part about all of this. 

 We've still got Sunday, we just have to wait a lot longer than anyone wanted. 

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