So, yeah, we're pretty good
Louisville solidified its newfound status as one of the hottest teams in America by pummeling St. John's 72-48 in Freedom Hall Wednesday night.
Led by Terrence Williams' 16 points, the Cardinals won their fourth straight, their eighth in ten tries, and their 20th overall.
T-Will bounced back from a somewhat lackluster performance against Marquette by attacking the basket and either finishing around the rim or finding open teammates for easy buckets. He finished the game with four assists and hit seven of the 11 shots he attempted.
His performance elicited high praise from his head coach.
"I think with Terrence you look at his body sometimes and you think that he is a wise old man and he's not," Pitino said. "T-Will gets upset with me when I take him out of practice, he does not miss a second of practice. He doesn't want to come out, he wants to learn. He wants to get better. He is so eager to please. He is like a son to me. And every single time he just wants to please me so much. Ever since I had a discussion with him about "there is nothing wrong with his shooting, you're the only one that can penetrate and make they other guys better'. He takes it to heart and immediately does it. Whatever you tell him, he does it 100 percent. He is tremendous young man."
Led by Derrick Caracter's 12 points and Earl Clark's nine, the Louisville bench outscored their counterparts from St. John's 30-5. Clark, whose presence was crucial for a Cardinal team missing injured starting small forward Juan Palacios, also grabbed five boards and got to the free-throw line a season-high nine times.
This might be the funniest picture I've
ever seen; I love you JDP
Playing against a team he said he "hated," freshman point guard Edgar Sosa continued his stellar play by scoring eight points and contributing arguably the highlight of the night with a magnificant fast break spin move that resulted in a lay-up in the second half.
Marquette hero Jerry Smith attempted just three shots and scored just two points, but he pulled down a team-high seven rebounds, deflected a number of passes, and offically recorded two steals.
In all the freshman quartet of Smith, Sosa, Caracter and Clark scored 31 points.
The lone bright spot for the Johnnies was road warrior Anthony Mason Jr. who lit it up from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 19 points and four assists. Junior guard Eugene Lawrence who scored 18 points in the Red Storm's win over Louisville a year ago, scored just one point and turned the ball over six times.
"Give Louisville, Coach Pitino credit, we didn't play well," said St. John's coach Norm Roberts. "We played decently in the first ten minutes. They did a good job guarding us inside. Probably the only guy who was really aggressive for us was Anthony Mason."
SJU has dropped three of four, but is still just a win or a Seton Hall loss away from clinching a spot in the Big East Tournament for the first time since 2003. The Johnnies are always tough at the Garden and its definitely possible that we could see them in the second round if they win the 12-5 or 11-6 game on Wednesday.
If the two do meet again then St. John's will have to hope that they don't go 15 minutes without a field goal, an astonishing feat that they somehow managed to accomplish on Crum Court.
"We played great defense tonight," Pitino said. "I think people said we were going to have a let down but I think our respect level for St. John's was so high there wasn't going to be any let down. We knew how good they are and how well they were playing and because of the respect we have for them it is impossible to have a letdown."
It was fantastic and extremely encouraging to see this young Cardinal team dismantle a respectable team after all of the attention they received in the least three or four days. The first four minutes were a bit lackluster, but that wasn't anything out of the ordinary. When Pitino pressed on the gas the team responded by turning up the heat on the full court press and scoring six points in 24 seconds to turn a four-point deficit into a two point advantage.
The effort level remained praiseworthy for the rest of the game, and I think the final score reflects that.
The only thing that made me a little sad tonight was the thought that this could have very well been the last time we'll ever see the walk-on trio of Perrin Johnson, Brad Gianiny and Chris Current see the floor. Each has had their moments here (in fact Perrin started, scored our first two points and had a sweet take later in the first half), and it's going to be kind of weird when they're not around in eight months.
Obviouly you'd hope they'd all see the floor next Sunday on Senior Night, but you never know.
St. John's had been 11-1 this season when outrebounding their opponent, and even though they edged the Cards 39-38 on the glass Wednesday, U of L's held an enormous 40-12 adavantage in the points in the paint category. A solid chunk of that advantage can be credited to Caracter who showed no signs of letting up and made the most of his 15 minutes of action by scoring in the paint and also impressively knocking down a pair outside jumpers.
I was really interested to see what DC looked like tonight, and despite a few hideous defensive lapses it was hard not to come away impressed yet again. If he keeps this up we're going to be a hell of an out in three weeks.
U of L is now just one win away from doing the improbable and locking up a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. The Cards are likely to be favored against both Seton Hall and Uconn, and wins in those two games would mean at least a three seed and a possible two if Pitt falls to both Georgetown and West Virginia.
This is awesome. Thank you Rick Pitino for getting us through the winter and bringing March excitement back to The 'Ville.