It will probably be the last Cincinnati game in Louisville for quite some time. After tonight, that might be ok with Louisville fans. After shaking off a terrible first half and overcoming a 17-point second half deficit, Louisville failed to hold on to three and one point leads with under three minutes to go. Cincinnati's defense, one of the best in the country, stiffened late and the Bearcats hit their free throws (17 of 18 for the game) to ice the game and win 69-66.
Louisville is now two games out of first place in the American Athletic Conference standings and has given up a game to Memphis and Cincinnati. In a sad reversion to the play that had characterized the team in losses to Memphis and Kentucky, Louisville's front court players Mangok Mathiang, Stephen Van Treese, and Wayne Blackshear scored no points. Pitino will surely be questioned in the coming days about the decision to play Blackshear just five minutes and Mangok just eleven minutes as well. But close losses to rivals make people question virtually everything about the game.
The struggles in games against truly quality opponents is becoming a too much of a trend for a team that looked to have perhaps turned a corner since losing to Memphis at home. The Cardinals will have to shake the loss off quickly and prepare for a noon Saturday game against Central Florida.