I'm exhausted so I'll do you a favor and not make this terribly long.
Tonight was the proverbial "I'm not disappointed that we lost, but I'm disappointed with the way we lost" game. Pitt smacked Louisville in the mouth at the beginning of the second half and the Cards, who for some reason seemed to think they would waltz to victory, looked terrified.
Still, the juxtaposition of our status after last year's loss to Pitt in the Big East Tournament with our status after this year's loss to Pitt in the Big East Tournament should have the Cardinal fan base feeling much better in the morning.
Yes this is a game we could have won, but Pitt (my original pick to win this thing...over Villanova) is a top 15 team that seemingly never loses before the title game in this tournament, and in the end I think the two best teams in the conference will be playing tomorrow night.
Here are some more scattered thoughts and tidbits:
Pitt shot 31 free-throws to our four and I still don't have any beef with the officials, I just think we sucked on defense with Jerry Smith and Derrick Caracter being the worst offenders.
Someone has got to teach our young guards (Smith, Sosa, McGee) that swiping at the ball for no apparent reason is not a smart thing to do. When you're taking a wild swipe in a no-pressure situation there's about a 5% chance you're going to get a steal, and a 95% chance that you're going to either pick up a foul, leave somebody open for a shot or have absolutely nothing come of it.
Dixon and Gray seemed to think that all of Aaron's fouls were crap, but aside from #3 I think the rest were solid. In fact, the one that Gray seemed to protest the most (#4 where he went over T-Will's back), was the one that I thought was the most legit. There was also an absolutely awful foul call on Kendall late in the second half that made me pissed even though it worked to my team's benefit.
I still loathe both Higgins and Burr, but lapses on defense, not the refs did the Cards in tonight.
Remember how Louisville turned Pitt over 16 times in the first half of their game earlier this season? Well the Panthers gave it up just six times tonight, and scored 19 points off of 15 Cardinal turnovers.
In my mind the biggest play of the game was Graves' three from the corner that made it 56-51 with just under three minutes to play.
This was the play where Len Elmore chastised the Cards for not getting on the floor and allowing the Panthers a second chance, but that wasn't the most infuriating part of the sequence. If you have the game Tivoed or DVR'd, you can go back and see that while our three back players (Williams, Padgett and Clark) are playing zone, our front two guys (Sosa and Smith) are clearly playing man-to-man, and this was true in the time before the first shot was missed, and after Pitt pulled the back out and reset.
After the shot goes in Sosa holds his arms out and says something to T-Will who looks just as confused. I'm not sure who screwed up here, but it couldn't have come at a worse time.
Speaking of T-Will, without him I think Louisville loses by double digits tonight, but what everyone is going to be talking about tomorrow, and rightfully so to a point, is the key stretch where he again inexplicably got three-happy.
Pitt turned up their defensive intensity in the second half there's no doubt about that, but they weren't so impenetrable that Louisville had to completely abandon what they did so well in the first half which was take the ball to the hole.
Williams was amazing in the first half and finished the game with an impressive 18 points, seven boards and nine huge assists, but his decision to take threes on three huge possessions in the second half (none of which were anywhere near close) was just baffling. He played 38 big minutes tonight, and his heart, will to win, and overall importance to this team can never be questioned, but he's just so close to "getting it" that it kills you.
A lot of people, including myself, have questioned why Will Scott, a player who never saw the floor in Louisville's first win over Pitt, was in the game in the last two minutes of a tight Big East Tournament semifinal.
In Pitino's defense I'm sure he didn't have Scott in the game to drive and dish, but Will's decision to do so on his own cost the team dearly.
What I really want to know is what the deal with Brandon Jenkins was. He came out of the game with 15:26 to play and never saw the floor again. I haven't heard anything about him being injured, and if it was because of court performance I sure didn't notice him do anything any more egregious than any other player wearing white.
Pitino is the March master and perhaps this was a case of him sending a message to the only scholarship senior on the team a week before his last NCAA Tournament. You have to hope that it was something like that, because otherwise it certainly seemed like we could have used his presence on defense during several key stretches.
Of course the best part about this is that it didn't mark the end of our season.
I thought a win would have all but locked up a four seed, even if Georgetown had spanked us, and as it is I think we're a solid five playing in the dreaded 5/12 game where I'm sure the committee will somehow find a way to match us up with Virginia or some solid team that's extremely underseeded.
I said before the season that if this team made it to the NCAA Tournament that it would have had a successful year, and now not only is this team dancing, but they're coming into the dance having won seven of eight and have likely sured up no worse than a six seed. I say likely because when the committee can somehow find a way to give us a four seed when we're 29-4, ranked third in the country and have a top eight RPI, I'm not putting it past them to put us against Duke in an 8/9 game on the same side as Kansas.
The Cards are now 17-1 when leading at halftime.
Earl Clark had some mental lapses today, but his 12 rebounds were enormous. He really responded amazingly well to being forced into the starting lineup in his first Big East Tournament.
That said, this team desperately needs Juan Palacios to contribute some solid minutes next week because Earl still isn't at a point where he should be playing 30 plus, and Perrin's size (God bless him) makes him a liability against teams with solid front lines.
The 11-point halftime deficit overcome by Pittsburgh is tied for second all-time in tournament history. The record is 15 set last season by Syracuse, which overcame a 15-point deficit at the half to defeat Georgetown.
If you're looking at all the little things that went against us, and are still feeling like we got gypped out of this one, take a look at Levance Fields' stat line.
Fields, who averages ten points a game and shoots 43 percent from the field, had a lot of open looks but was 0-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-4 from three, and scored just one point. If he has a normal game then perhaps Pitt wins this one more convincingly.
No idea what the deal with Derrick Caracter was this week, perhaps he's taking himself too seriously again, and maybe the "DC" shaved into his head reflects that.
Pitino said after the game on the radio that some of the players were more focused on music and girls than the scouting report, and word is that this was a dig at Caracter and a couple of other players who were apparently "distracted" throughout the day.
I suppose it's day-to-day with this kid and we just have to hope that Hyde (He's the good one right? I've never actually read it) shows up next Thursday or Friday.
Terrance Farley is a shot blocking machine.
I'd like to leave by saying that Louisville is headed to the NCAA Tournament, and that Selection Sunday is once again one of the best days of the year.