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Wednesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, ‘Cloids.

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—Spread check: There’s no early line for Louisville-Kentucky yet, but Ken Pom currently has the Cardinals winning, 69-65.

—The CJ’s Shannon Russell tells the backstory of Louisville freshman Gabe Wiznitzer, which explains why the big man doesn’t take anything for granted.

—Cardiac Hill reacts to Louisville’s triumph over Pitt Tuesday night.

Pitt (5-2) could have played worse. They weren’t particularly effective on offense but most teams would not be while missing so much of their scoring. Another factor? The Panthers were beaten badly on the boards by Louisville (5-1), 45-26. Why so bad? Well, while we will talk a lot about the scoring of Champagnie and Toney, it’s important to remember that they are also the team’s top two rebounders, pulling in just over 17 boards per game. Missing them certainly hurt just as much on the glass as it did in terms of the team’s scoring.

First things first — Pitt fought valiantly tonight. They were missing Capel and their top two scorers and still kept things close most of the way before fading a bit late. They trailed by only five inside of 6:30 left and were right there all game long. You’ve just got to give the Panthers credit for hanging in there as well as they did. There’s always room for improvement but I had no expectations of a different result.

The losses of Champagnie and Toney, of course, cannot be understated. They are the team’s top two scorers and, arguably, their top two players. Missing one would be bad — missing both at the same time is just very hard on a team fighting to merely be relevant in the ACC. The two combine to provide a little less than half of the team’s scoring but it’s more than that. As I mentioned, they are the top two rebounders, too.

—The CJ has released its annual high school football All-State team.

—Last second (figurative) kicks in the balls are especially hard to take this year. If you’d like to help out a Cardinal family in need simply by giving them a dollar, you can do so here.

—There have been 12 College Football Playoff semifinal games so far. Most of them have been pretty bad.

—A beautiful Christmas miracle.

—Eric Crawford discusses Louisville’s bounce back win over Pitt.

—The U of L women’s soccer team posted a collective 3.594 GPA for the fall semester.

—Associate head coach Tim O’Toole didn’t want to use the absence of his two best players as an excuse for Pitt’s 10-point loss to Louisville.

“I don’t think we played well,” O’Toole said. “Louisville did a lot of things that hurt us. The one glaring thing to me was about the backboard. Obviously, when you lose Justin and you lose Au’Diese, a lot of that physicality and toughness that you had to rebound isn’t there. But the reality is we knew we needed to be tougher and we needed to be more physical and we weren’t all night long. That’s something we have to keep addressing because that’s been a point of emphasis since the Saint Francis game. We had been pretty good up until tonight. It’s disappointing.”

Without their top two scorers, Pitt shot just 40.4% from the field and 28.6% from 3-point range while scoring only 54 points on 64 possessions. It was carried offensively for long stretches by Odukale, who finished with a career-high 16 points, making seven of his team-high 15 shots while playing 30 minutes largely in relief of a foul-plagued Xavier Johnson. Johnson was the only other Pitt player to finish in double figures, scoring 10 points in 22 minutes.

Tuesday’s loss marked the end to a frenetic 72-hour stretch. Champagnie injured his knee and Toney hurt his ankle in a practice Sunday, with both of them finding out Monday that they would be unavailable against the Cardinals (and Champagnie for much longer).

“We were kind of depressed because those are our two big players,” Odukale said. “On top of that, they’re our brothers. We were torn. Half of the season is clipped due to injury, but after that, we can’t sulk our heads. Everybody has to step up now.”

—The Louisville women’s basketball game against Pitt on Jan. 7 has been moved to a 6 p.m. tip with the dreaded regional sports network TV assignment.

—I thought this bowl season was dumb and pointless, but then I saw the over hit in a game solely because a celebratory Gatorade bath of french fries spilled onto the field and resulted in a 15-yard penalty.

—The Athletic’s women’s basketball power rankings have Louisville at No. 2.

—Pittsburgh Sports Now has five takeaways from the Panthers’ loss to Louisville.

—Will Smith finally got to meet Will Smith. I’m sure it was the actor’s honor.

—The CJ lays out three keys for Louisville when it comes to beating Kentucky.

—RB Trevion Cooley was a “slam dunk” signing for Louisville.

—Best sports picture of 2020 right here:

I mean ...

Put it in The Met.

—After taking care of Pitt in its ACC opener, the Louisville basketball team’s focus has shifted to rivalry Saturday.

—John Calipari sure sounds like a desperate man.

“We’ve got to figure out how to win some of these games, and I think if we win, we’ll go on a run and they’ll start believing. This is hard,” Calipari said during his call-in radio show. “This is what I’m saying to all our fans, you’ve got to have faith. There are a lot of trolls out there right now. And let me say this, they just moved our game from ESPN2 to ESPN. Why do you think they did that?” They’re hoping, “Here’s (loss) number six.” We’ve got to ruin ESPN’s weekend.”

After “beating everybody’s brains in for 11 years,” Calipari believes opposing teams are looking at this broken Kentucky team and beat them while they’re down. Take advantage while they have a solid shot, even if they may not have consistently over the last decade-plus.

“That’s got to be our job. “We’re going to ruin your weekend.” We know why you put this on ESPN instead of ESPN2. You want more people to go to the execution! Well, we ain’t having it,” Calipari said. “We’ve been beating everybody’s brains in for 11 years, you don’t think all these people are waiting in the wings because they think they can beat us now? “For the first time, we’ve got a chance!”‘

A little later in the show, Calipari doubled down on ESPN’s narrative push, saying the Worldwide Leader in Sports “played right into it.”

“We need our fans more than ever before. Please, people out there, many trolls, other programs, why would they not jump on this? We beat them all down for 11 years! Now all of a sudden, “We have a chance to beat Kentucky, let’s go!” ESPN, they played right into it. “Let’s move this game, let’s watch the execution with more people watching.” Let’s ruin their weekend.”

“Let’s be mad at ESPN together!” and “we always beat Louisville!” are the laziest (and probably the last) two tricks in the bag. No idea where the man turns if the Cards take care of business on Saturday.

—Reading the comments on Arizona’s formal announcement of Jedd Fisch as its new head football coach are a great way to spend 20 minutes this afternoon.

—Boy am I glad we called THAT guy.

—Big Red Louie has three takeaways from Louisville’s win over Pitt.

—Louisville has reached out to Georgia LB transfer Jermaine Johnson.

—And finally, beat Kentucky.