The 6th ranked Cardinals faced their first ranked opponent of the season Friday night when the 20th ranked Vanderbilt Commodores came to town. The atmosphere was that of a game in early March. Louisville was coming off a big win over Long Beach State in which they were finally able to get the offense rolling. However, it would be defense that dominated this game and helped the Cards come back from a nine point deficit late in the 2nd half and win the contest in a 62-60 OT thriller.
Kyle Kuric was one of the heroes at the end of the day, but for the first 36 minutes or so it almost looked as if he would be one of the main factors if we were to lose the game. His field goal percentage wasn’t terrible, but he seemed to struggle most of the game and disappeared for long stretches. He had four turnovers at the half and continued to pile them up into the second. Then, with a little under three minutes remaining it appeared as if Kuric decided to turn it on. He hit a leaning midrange shot to pull the Cards back within two. The very next play Chane Behanan used his deceptive quickness to get into a passing lane, get the steal, and flush the breakaway dunk to tie the game at 47 with 2:28 remaining.
With time expiring in regulation and the game tied, Louisville had one last opportunity to win the game. Siva penetrated the lane, drew the defense and passed to a cutting Behanan. Behanan pump faked, pump faked again, and then missed the game winning lay-up as time expired. This game would take extra time to decide the winner. Louisville was down by as much as six in the overtime period before they put together a small run.
Kyle’s biggest play came with one minute remaining in the overtime period and the Cards down by two. Pitino knows how deadly Kuric can be from "Kyle’s Corner." Kuric shot a contested three pointer from his trusty corner and was able to get it to go down to give the Cards a one point lead.
Free throws were a big reason Vandy lost this game. They shot 14-24 from the line and missed a critical free throw in OT that could’ve given them the lead with less than a minute to go. They were however able to sink the second to tie the game. That is when Kuric struck again. He managed to sink an open 15-footer after losing the defender with a nasty pump fake. On the next possession Kuric was active on the defensive end of the floor, but was called for a blocking foul with only 12 seconds remaining. Vandy’s John Jenkins was able to make both free throws to tie the game.
Similar to the end of regulation, OT would come down to one last Cardinal possession. Siva would take his time bringing the ball up the floor. Dieng set a great pick at the top of the key to give Siva a little room to work with. Siva then crossed over at the free throw line and charged down the lane to make the game winning layup with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Yum! Center went crazy.
This was a huge win for the Cards. Especially when you consider that they are missing several players who will be critical to their success in March. Siva looked to be 100% for the first time this season and the Cards responded well to pressure. Behanan made several big plays down the stretch. I would really like to see more plays run for him. He seems to get most of his points from offensive rebounds, loose balls, etc. With this win Louisville has started consecutive seasons 7-0 for the first time in program history. The defense has been pretty good all season. When the offense gets going, and more players come back from injury, the future is very bright for the Cardinals.