The thing is, they won't just lose. They have to go on these mini runs that cut the lead down to four or five, and you're left with no choice but to get your hopes up and keep watching, at which point they promptly miss a lay-up or fail to grab a loose ball that results in a back-breaking three by the opponent. It's awful.
Louisville's 73-65 loss to Georgetown has definitely backed the Cards into a corner. Not only is there no margin for error against USF, St. John's, Seton Hall and Connecticut, but U of L is now going to have to beat Pitt or Marquette at their place just to be on the bubble come Big East tourney time.
Pitino insinuated last night that 10-6 is the magic mark, well 10-6 without a win over the Golden Eagles or Panthers may as well be 0-16.
If Louisville can get to 10-6 or 11-5 via a route that includes a win over one of the league's top two teams, then they're likely a win in Madison Square Garden away from an NCAA bid. Anything less and it's likely going to take at least a run to the championship game to even have a prayer.
As for the game itself last night, I think it's important to start with just how good Georgetown was instead of with that Louisville did or didn't do wrong.
They're not going to win the Big East regular season title or postseason tournament, but I think they'll go as far or farther in the big dance than any other team in the conference. Remember this is a team that returned a great deal from a squad that was a fluke shot away from beating Florida in last year's Sweet 16. At times this season it's seemed like they've just been going through the motions, but when they're playing and John Thompson III's offense is clicking, it's a beautiful thing to watch.
Louisville furthered its season-long motif of domination at the hands of talented big men as Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green scored a combined 36 points and went 16-of-20 from the field. As a whole Georgetown shot 56.5 percent last night, the best of any U of L opponent this season. On the other hand, the Cardinal frontcourt was manhandled all night and went just 5-for-29 from the field.
And it wasn't like this was the UK game where Louisville couldn't hit a shot or hold on to the ball to save their lives. The Cards threw everything they had at Georgetown during a ten minute stretch in the first half, and the Hoyas didn't even blink.
After falling behind 12-3, Louisville did the unthinkable and hit threes on four-consecutive possessions. After each, Georgetown responded with a bucket of its own. In all the Cards scored on eight straight trips before Juan Palacios missed an uncontested lay-up that would have tied the game at 24.
Louisville continued to claw, scrapping for buckets and never letting the Hoyas get ahead by more than six, but Hibbert and Green seemed to be just toying with the Cards, scoring at will and never letting Louisville pull even.
The half ended predictably. Georgetown's Jessie Sapp hit a crushing trey with 25 seconds left and Louisville naturally responded by having Andre McGee dribble the ball near midcourt for almost 20 seconds before finally making a move to the basket with six ticks left, and then hoisting a prayerless fadeaway jumper over a guy twice his size. After all their effort and immaculate outside shooting, the Cards trailed 38-31 at the break.
The half also featured another late in the shot clock man-to-man defended out-of-bounds play that resulted in a lay-up.
I don't even get mad anymore. It was a big bucket too, but I didn't show any emotion. When the ball was knocked out with two seconds left to shoot, I simply said, "Well this is a foregone conclusion," and sat back and watched. I'm not sure whether it's an issue of pride or ignorance, but the failure to adapt in this situation is mind-boggling.
Louisville then went through the same second-half shenanigans that we've become oh so familiar with over the past two seasons. They fell behind by 13, went on an 8-0 run, gave up two threes, got the lead back down to five, gave up a wide open dunk; you know that whole song and dance. The last two minutes were nothing more than a formality.
If it wasn't frustrating enough that Louisville fell on a night where they were actually hitting a decent amount of their outside shots, the Cards also lost despite setting a Big East and school record by committing just one turnover. So awesome work taking care of the ball, not so awesome work losing.
As for the individuals, Earl Clark was yet again the apple in the eye of the optimistic Cardinal fan. The freshman led U of L in scoring by netting 14 points for the second straight game, and was the most effective player on the defensive end all night. He was active, he read passes, he didn't appear intimidated, it was quite refreshing.
Terrence Williams was 3-of-17 from the field, but that would have been almost acceptable had he not appeared to be on Mars every time Georgetown had the ball. He had several lapses on defense that killed us when we were trying to make our run in the first half. His presence was also noticeably absent on the boards for a second straight game, as he pulled down just three rebounds. The 14 missed shots is what understandably jumps out at fans, but his poor effort on the glass and defensive end may have cost us just as dearly.
Veteran leaders Juan Palacios and Brandon Jenkins played just a combined 30 minutes and scored a total of six points. Palacios was visibly intimidated by the Hoya front line, and saw most of his minutes go to Clark. On more than one occasion Jenkins made a concerted effort to get to the basket, which was good to see, but he was still 0-for-2 from the field and was a non-factor for the majority of the 16 minutes he played.
Jerry Smith got back in the groove, drilling 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc, but he sat for most of the second half after taking one ill-advised shot that missed badly. We've got to get Jerry more looks, and to do that he has to play more. We're a better team when Smith is on the floor.
Edgar Sosa made arguably the most frustrating play in a game chalk full of them. Down 35-28, a streaking Sosa had Smith wide open under the basket, but elected to take it to the rack himself where he was fouled. This would be maddening if anyone did it, but was especially so considering Sosa shoots just 65% from the stripe. The freshman, who has just three assists in his last two games, is playing like he's forgotten everything he'd seemed to have learned when he was playing so well two and three weeks ago. You're a non-shooting point guard in the Big East, distribute the ball.
Though he was just 1-of-6 shooting, David Padgett again played like a man worthy of calling himself this team's leader. He battled for nine boards, and did everything he could offensively, but was just outsized and overmatched. He did nothing to warrant any criticism.
Jonathan Huffman played just three minutes but still managed to make a lasting impact, getting beaten badly for two dunks in the first half. I'll never understand why he wasn't redshirted last season, unless it was one of those "I won't come here if I have to do it" deals. By all accounts the sophomore does possess some impressive offensive skills for someone his height, but he hasn't made any improvement in his body size, and he still looks totally lost when he sees any meaningful playing time. Word is he was extremely upset for some reason after last night's game. Hopefully this isn't a sign that he's throwing in the towel for the season, or something worse.
Andre McGee got the surprise start at the point, but played just 11 minutes. He, like every other player on the team besides Edgar Sosa, committed zero turnovers, but he had just as many assists. He hit a big three to cut the lead to 24-22 in the first half, but that was his only make out of four attempts. He's still trying to get his feet back under him, which is frustrating (sensing a theme?) considering it's almost mid-February.
So now we've reached the official fight or flight point. Either this team will go 2-4 or 3-3 to end the season, give a half-hearted performance in the NIT and call it a year, or they'll pull together and make a run at the dance. What happens from here on out is anyone's guess.
Peace, love, Cards.