A running joke among U of L basketball fans is that Denny Crum should take Rick Pitino's place on the sideline for the last two minutes of every close game. Well, most would consider it a joke. At this point, many Cards fans would likely prefer it. This season, U of L has thrice failed to make a play with the game on the line. The team's inability to close was highlighted last night when we were no short of chances to beat Notre Dame but did not take advantage.
I researched the last five seasons (including this one) to see what has happened when we have the ball in one-possession games and less than 30 seconds (or so) on the game clock.
I developed several categories for game-ending situations. The first is a miss, indicated by an X. This includes turnovers and missed shots. In some games, this happened multiple times. The Syracuse game a few weeks ago is a perfect example. Siva turned the ball over with 0:29, Blackshear missed a shot with 0:15, and Gorgui turned the ball over with 0:07. We had three separate chances here to win the game and we did not.
When it comes to games decided at the line, I wasn't sure how to handle them. This post isn't really about our performance at the line and I'm sure there are plenty of statistics out there that approach that topic. If the game was tied and a U of L player got fouled on the shot and made free throws, I counted it as an O. If we were up and the other team had to foul to get the ball back, I didn't count it. I hope that's a fair judgment.
By no means will this analysis live up to the work done by other Card Chronicle contributors and some of my categorizations are certainly judgment calls. This is far from scientific.
L 55-56 vs. UNLV - Terrence Williams missed layup at 0:03 (X)
W 74-71 vs. Kentucky - Edgar Sosa made 3-pointer at 0:03 (O)
W 61-60 at Villanova - Williams made go-ahead layup at 0:07 (O)
W 87-73 OT vs. Notre Dame - Earl Clark missed 2-point jumper at 0:32 (X); Will Scott missed 3-pointer with 0:01 remaining in regulation (push: this was a catch and shoot situation)
W 62-58 vs. Marquette - Samardo Samuels made 1-2 free throws at 0:22
W 62-59 at West Virginia - Jerry Smith made 2 free throws to go up 62-58 at 0:12; Williams missed 2 free throws at 0:05
L 77-82 OT at Pittsburgh - Sosa missed 2 free throws with 0:25 remaining and the Cards up 4; Sosa made 1-2 free throws at 0:11 to go up 2 (O); OT: Jared Swopshire missed 3-pointer down 77-80 at 0:07 (X)
L 74-77 at WVU - Reginald Delk missed 3-pointer down 74-75 at 0:13 (X); Mike Marra missed 3-pointer at 0:00 (push: he heaved it from half court if I'm not mistaken; also, this game really shouldn't be in the record books, i.e. Jim Burr)
W 66-60 at Syracuse - Rakeem Buckles turned the ball over at 0:32 with the Cards up 2 (X); J. Smith made 2 free throws to go up 4 with 0:18 remaining; J. Smith missed 2 free throws up 4 with 0:16
W 91-89 2 OT vs. Notre Dame - Preston Knowles made 1-2 free throws at 0:28 to tie the game (O); OT: Samuels made 2 free throws to tie the game with 0:39 remaining (O); Sosa missed 3-pointer at 0:01 (X); OT 2: J. Smith missed layup at 0:25 (X)
W 78-76 at Connecticut - Sosa made go-ahead layup at 0:07 (O)
L 66-69 vs. Cincinnati - Sosa turned the ball over with 0:01 remaining (X)
W 71-70 vs. Marquette - Preston. Terrence Jennings made 2 free throws to make it 70-69 Marquette with 0:24 remaining (O); Kyle Kuric made go-ahead layup at 0:04 (O)
W 55-54 vs. WVU - Peyton Siva made go-ahead layup at 0:05 (O)
W 79-78 OT at UConn - Siva made 2-point jumper with 0:30 remaining to tie the game (O); OT: Marra made 3-pointer at 0:25 to cut the lead to 1 (O); Siva made dunk at 0:08 to tie the game (O); OT 2: Siva made layup to go up 5 with 0:27 remaining (O); Siva missed free throw at 0:18 with the Cards up 3; Chris Smith missed 2 free throws at 0:08 with the Cards up 1
L 59-62 at Georgetown - Jennings made dunk at 0:06, cutting the Hoyas' lead to 1 (X); Siva missed 3-pointer at buzzer (push: mid-court heave)
W 61-57 vs. DePaul - Jennings missed free throw at 0:25 with the Cards up 3; Siva made 1-2 free throws at 0:05 to go up 4
L 79-89 OT at Notre Dame - Knowles missed 3-pointer with 0:28 remaining in regulation with the game tied (X); Knowles missed 3-pointer at 0:03 (X)
W 73-69 vs. Syracuse - Siva made 1-2 free throws at 0:05 to go up 4
W 62-59 OT vs. Pittsburgh - Knowles made 2-point jumper at 0:35 to go up 2 (O); Siva missed layup (blocked) at 0:04 (X); Kuric missed layup at 0:02 (same possession as Siva's layup so not another X); OT: Knowles missed 3-pointer at 0:19 with the Cards up 3; Kyle Kuric made dunk at 0:01 to go up 5
L 70-72 at WVU - Smith made 2 free throws to go up 5 with 0:25 remaining; Siva made 1-2 free throws to go up 3 with 0:17 remaining; Knowles missed 3-pointer at 0:01 with the game tied at 70-70 (X)
W 83-77 OT vs. Notre Dame - Knowles missed jumper at 0:30 with the game tied (X); OT: C. Smith made 1-2 free throws at 0:18 to go up 4
L 66-69 vs. UConn - Knowles missed 3-pointer down 64-67 at 0:08 (X); Marra made 2-3 free throws with 0:04 remaining to cut the lead to 1; Knowles missed 3-pointer at 0:01
L 61-62 vs. Morehead St. - Do I have to tell you? Ugh. Elisha Justice missed free throw at 0:30 with the Cards up 2; Morehead's Demonte Harper made 3-pointer at 0:04 to give the Eagles a 1-point lead; Marra missed 3-pointer at 0:01 (X)
Author's Note: How did we survive this season?
W 62-60 OT vs. Vanderbilt - Chane Behanan missed layup with 0:04 remaining (X); OT: Siva made go-ahead layup with 0:02 (O)
L 65-67 2 OT vs. Notre Dame - Siva turned the ball over at 0:04 with the game tied (X); OT: Kuric made 2 free throws to go up 1 with 0:11 remaining (O); OT 2: Siva turned the ball over at 0:10 with the Cards down 2 (X)
W 77-74 at WVU - With the Cards up 1, Kuric missed 3-pointer with 0:17; Kuric made 2 free throws at 0:06
L 51-52 vs. Syracuse - Siva turned the ball over at 0:06 (X)
W 90-82 OT at DePaul - C. Smith made 1-2 free throws to go up 2 with 0:19 remaining in regulation (O)
L 56-60 at Cincinnati - Kuric missed 3-pointer at 0:22 with the Cards down 3 (X)
W 57-54 vs. Pittsburgh - Behanan missed free throw at 0:24 with the Cards up 1; Behanan made 2 free throws at 0:13 to go up 3; Siva made 2 free throws to go up 3 with 0:04 remaining
W 72-68 vs. Florida - Russ Smith made 2 free throws at 0:17 to go up 3; Wayne Blackshear made 1-2 free throws at 0:03 to go up 4
W 51-46 vs. Northern Iowa - Siva missed 2-point jumper at 0:12 with the Cards up 2; R. Smith made layup at 0:06 to put the Cards up 4 (O)
W 69-66 vs. Illinois St. - Siva made 2 free throws at 0:18 to put the Cards up 3
L 68-70 vs. Syracuse - Siva turned the ball over with the Cards up 1 at 0:29 (X); Blackshear missed layup at 0:15 with the Cards down 1 (X); Gorgui Dieng turned the ball over at 0:07 with the Cards down 2 (X)
L 51-53 at Georgetown - R. Smith missed 2-point jumper at 0:35 with the Cards down 1 (X); Siva missed 2-point jumper with 0:10 remaining (X)
W 64-61 vs. Pittsburgh - Dieng made 2 free throws at 0:12 to put the Cards up 4
L 101-104 5 OT at Notre Dame
Dieng missed 2 free throws with the Cards up 3 at 0:27
OT 1: R. Smith missed 3-pointer at 0:05 (X)
OT 2: R. Smith made 2 free throws to put the Cards up 3 with 0:25 remaining; R. Smith missed layup at 0:04 (X)
OT 3: Behanan made 1-2 free throws to tie the game at 83 with 0:16 remaining; Louisville had the ball with 0:04 remaining and did not get a shot off (X)
OT 4: R. Smith missed layup at 0:30 with the Cards up 2 (X)
OT 5: Montrezl Harrell missed jumper at 0:28 with the Cards down 2; Harrell missed 2 free throws at 0:25; R. Smith made 1-2 free throws to cut the lead to 1 with 0:13 remaining; R. Smith missed 3-pointer at 0:05 (X)
There you have it. Assuming I did not miss any games (a bold assumption) and that I counted correctly, we are 23-15 in these games. However, I don't think that's the telling stat. In the late-game situations I included, we made plays in 18 of them and didn't make plays in 31 of them. That's a success rate of 36.7%. I don't know the rate around the rest of the country (who here can get in touch with Ken Pomeroy?), but Rick Pitino should be better than that.
The most discouraging part is what we are witnessing this season. I have never felt less optimistic about a team in a close game with time winding down. We can only hope that Rick and the team learn how to finish a game. Otherwise, Peyton and Co. will be watching the Final Four from home.