Louisville became the fourth No. 1 team in college basketball to taste defeat this season, falling to Texas Tech Tuesday night at the Jimmy V. Classic in New York.
From the start, U of L appeared less tough, less intense and less focused then their unranked challengers, who had lost three straight games and were once again playing without the services of leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey.
Let’s cut right to the chase: This was a bad night for everyone involved with Louisville basketball.
Jordan Nwora couldn’t carry his team to victory in the type of game where stars are supposed to be able to do exactly that. Dwayne Sutton seemed invisible in a game that is supposed to be exactly his style. Steven Enoch and Malik Williams couldn’t dominate a Red Raider team that doesn’t give major minutes to anyone taller than 6’8. Chris Beard’s team looked like it knew Chris Mack’s offense better than the Cardinals did.
Perhaps most glaringly was the play of Louisville’s backcourt, which drew national attention.
Louisville’s point guard play. ...— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) December 11, 2019
Louisville could win this game, and I absolutely recognize that SOMEONE has to be No. 1, but their guard play is a major issue for teams that apply any amount of pressure defensively.— Brian Snow (@BSnow247) December 11, 2019
Louisville's point guard issues are as evident now as they have been all season long. They're 3-19 from the floor. They've gotten nothing in transition, Texas Tech's defense takes you out of what you want to do and Louisville has no one that can create shots in the halfcourt.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) December 11, 2019
Darius Perry made one shot, had no assists, and committed six turnovers. It felt like 26. Fresh Kimble was slightly better, but nowhere near good enough to put Louisville in position for a neutral court win over a team that was coming off consecutive losses to Iowa, Creighton and DePaul.
We knew that the guard play had to get better. Tuesday night was a troubling look at just how much better it’s going to have to get.
You can serve up whatever self-comforting line you want to in this spot.
It’s a long season.
It’s just one game.
Better to get this out of your system now then against Kentucky or in ACC play.
Look around the country, there is no dominant team this year. Louisville can still be as good as anyone.
These are all accurate and healthy things to remember. They also don’t explain away this performance at Madison Square Garden or make it any less troubling when it comes to the biggest of pictures.
Perry and/or Kimble have to be significantly better. I think we’re all in agreement there. They don’t need to be Peyton Siva or Donovan Mitchell, but they certainly have to help the team more than they hurt it. How this is accomplished is on them and the coaching staff.
The other glaring thing about Louisville right now is that it only has one player who can consistently create shots for himself in the halfcourt. When that player goes 4-of-16 from the field and everyone else on the floor is either too limited to make something happen or playing like they’ve miraculously forgotten everything they had been taught about basketball, you’re sort of screwed.
U of L needs to figure out if Samuell Williamson can play a larger role. In the limited sample size we’ve seen, the McDonald’s All-American certainly looks like he possesses at least the potential to be that second guy who can create his own looks when the halfcourt offense isn’t rolling on its own.
Louisville can probably beat 80 percent of the teams playing its base offense with the occasional allowance of Jordan doing star stuff, but they couldn’t beat Texas Tech playing that way Tuesday night, and I’m pretty sure they can’t win six games in three weeks in March playing that way either. There’s going to have to be an evolution, and maybe I am completely off-base, but I think the backcourt and Williamson have to be at the center of it.
There will be plenty of time now for both Louisville and the rest of the country to think about this one. The Cardinals have what should be walkover games against Eastern Kentucky and Miami University before heading to Lexington on Dec. 28.
It’s time to really dig in and get to work.