clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Five Belated Thoughts On The Memphis Loss

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

1. These are the types of losses you're supposed to write off as being the product of a "rivalry game" or a "tough road environment" late in the season. The events of the subsequent 48 hours makes this even more tempting to do, as nine teams ranked in the top 20 (and one ranked No. 22) all fell over the weekend.

Still, there's a sting about this loss that I've been unable to shake in the succeeding couple of days. It might be the fact that the way the game played out was so similar to the first meeting between the teams, which took place nearly two months ago. A corner was supposed to have been turned since then.

Bigger than that, I think, is that this at least temporarily disproved the belief (or hope) that what happened in Cincinnati two Saturdays ago would keep something like the final 4:22 in Memphis from happening again. Russ Smith's game-winner was supposed to bestow confidence throughout the team when big moments came, it was supposed to spawn a killer instinct that had been noticeably absent for the first three months of the season. Instead, an 8-point lead inside the FedEx Forum turned into a 6-point loss before anyone could really get a handle on what was going on.

There still isn't a team in the country that I don't think Louisville could beat at least three or four times out of 10, and that's more than enough reason to be excited about the coming weeks. Still, it's pretty clear that another run of at least four games in the big dance is going to require more fine-tuning and understanding of roles than I think any of us thought would be needed at this point in the season. I have no idea whether or not this will be accomplished, but I think the coming week will give us a pretty solid indication.

2. There were two really, really disappointing aspects of Saturday's loss:

1) Memphis had no answer for Montrezl Harrell for the first 35 minutes of the game, and then the Cards gave Trez virtually no attempt to have an affect on the contest's outcome when it was totally up in the air.

After Harrell's dunk put the Cards ahead 65-57 with 4:47 to play, Louisville ended the game by missing eight straight jump shots. Harrell touched the ball three times in the final segment, and not once in the paint. This was a mistake.

That said, I hope the next time the Cards find themselves in this situation that they don't force it into Trez or that he doesn't attempt to score 1-on-3 when there's an open guy on the wing. The fact that they should have fed Harrell and didn't on Saturday doesn't mean the situation will call for it on Wednesday at SMU or this Saturday against UConn.

This team has to get better at recognizing the hot-hand, because that's the best route to go when it comes to putting teams away. If Harrell is unstoppable again on Wednesday, then he should be fed in the game's final five minutes if the outcome is still in doubt. If Luke Hancock has hit three or four shots from the outside and U of L is in the same situation, it would probably be wise to try and get him a look.

2) Even more disappointing than that, at least to me, was the way U of L handled the foul situation in the final minute. The Cards should have learned from the Sean Kilpatrick debacle at the Yum Center last month, and instead they did basically the exact same thing and greatly minimized any chance they had of coming back and stealing the game.

In a one-possession game where there's so little difference between the shot clock and game clock that you have to foul, the mindset is pretty simple: spend the first few seconds trying to get a steal, DO NOT foul their best free-throw shooter, trap said shooter and get the ball out of his hands if it comes to him, foul whomever gets the ball next as soon as possible. Instead, Louisville ran away from the Memphis player who came down with the rebound, allowed Michael Dixon Jr. (88%) to get the ball without any denial, let Dixon hold the ball for 15 seconds, didn't foul the Tiger player he eventually passed the ball to, allowed Dixon to get the ball back, and then had their own best player (Russ Smith) commit his fifth foul on Dixon after 20 seconds had come off the clock.

It was disappointing when it happened earlier this season against Cincinnati, but even more so this time because that's the type of thing that you're supposed to have learned from.

Also, free-throws...but you know this.

3. All that said, how bizarre was the lane violation call? The fact that CBS made it seem like we were only down three points made the whole thing 10 times worse. Had Chris Jones or Terry Rozier made a three that we all thought tied the game but quickly found out only made the score 70-69, it would have made Saturday an even more bitter pill to swallow.

Tournament is two weeks away, CBS. This is exactly what we can't have.

4. I think it's time to create a new "rebounding assist" statistic solely so that when Stephan Van Treese plays the way he did on Saturday, his performance can be appropriately appreciated.

SVT was credited with just five rebounds against Memphis, but I counted seven times where he tapped a rebound to a teammate or simply kept a ball alive that U of L wound up coming down with. Harrell got all the glory, but this was exactly the type of effort Louisville needs from Van Treese in order to have a shot this month.

I think I'm just going to call those plays "Steves" from now on. As in, "Henderson finished the evening 15 points, six rebounds and three Steves."

Van Treese also provided a brilliant anti-Darius Washington moment by stroking a pair of flagrant free-throws with no one around. It would have been so much cooler if we'd won.

5. It's crazy how much one shot change the entire perspective or narrative of a game.

If Russ Smith misses that high-arcing jumper against Cincinnati last week, Louisville is a group of chokers who can't finish down the stretch and is 0-6 against ranked teams. On the flip side, if Luke Hancock's deep three that went halfway through the net stays down, then I think U of L rolls to a win and is being hailed as a top flight national title contender that is "hitting its stride at the right time once again."

U of L is just a couple of shots in one direction or the other from being right in the thick of the title hunt or being a squad that will be lucky to make the second weekend of the big dance. That's both exciting and worrisome.

I really and truly believe that this week is the proverbial "moment" (or moments) for this group. Now I'm not saying that they need to beat SMU and UConn by 30 to prove their worth to the rest of the country, I'm just saying that this is the time where everyone needs to understand what their role is and fully buy into it. If it doesn't happen this week, then I don't see it happening in Memphis, and I really don't see it happening anytime after that.

It'd be pretty easy for the veterans on this team to rest on the laurels of their national championship and back-to-back Final Fours and Big East championships. It'd be equally easy for the newcomers to take on the ever-enticing "wait 'til next year when I'm able to do more" mindset. What's more difficult is to fully accept the moment at hand and make a real, concerted run at history. If that's going to happen, it needs to start now.