Cards Can't Complete Comeback; Fall 78-73
The first few possessions of this one could have been a glimpse into how it would turn out. Louisville missed a shot on the first possession of the game, then committed a foul before getting a steal on Alabama's first offensive effort. The Cards took the lead on a layup and then saw the lead disappear on a made Alabama three. With a chance to regain the lead, the Cards went 1-2 from the line to tie it instead. Louisville shot just 40.9% from the floor and 66.7% from the line, and they committed 26 fouls while Alabama turned it over 20 times. We had it all right in front of us in the first three minutes of the game.
The Tide were able to stretch their early lead to six points at 11-5, but a short run by Louisville tied it up with three to go in the quarter. The Cards never took regained a first quarter lead after going down 3-2, though, and they hit the first quarter break trailing by four after a buzzer-beating basket from Alabama. The tied shot 61.5% from the floor and were 4-8 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. They only made nine threes in the game, but those four in the first quarter came at the most opportune times to apply key pressure to Louisville. Louisville was 0-2 from three-point land in the first and their missed free throw count matched the deficit in the game.
The third quarter was Louisville's only positive quarter of the game from a score perspective. Louisville led it by a pair with a 22-20 effort. Midway through the quarter, a three by Taylor saw the Cards take their first lead since the opening minute. It was short live, though, as Alabama's Sarah Ashlee Barker scored on the next possession to take the lead back for the Tide. Thus began the trades that continued through the fourth quarter. Louisville scored a layup in with 1:17 remaining in the quarter to match their largest lead of the afternoon at two. The last quarter saw more of the same from Alabama, though, as a key three from Barker took the lead back. Louisville had a chance after Nyla Harris pulled down an offensive rebound off of a Taylor missed three, but a steal by Barker led to a fast break to put the Tide up by three. Louisville held for the last shot of the quarter, but the layup was off the mark.
Which leads us back to that back-and-forth fourth quarter. Louisville scored back-to-back baskets to take the lead in the fourth but couldn't hold onto it. After a free throw by Alabama tied it at 61 with 7:25 remaining, Louisville wouldn't lead again. Twice, Alabama hit threes to break the tie. Since Louisville couldn't buy one of those, they struggled to keep up. The second of those came to break a 69-69 tie with 27 seconds remaining. Louisville cut the deficit to one two more times in the game, but Alabama made the free throws they needed to stay ahead. Final score 78-73.
While Louisville was not good from the free throw line, and their number of missed foul shots was larger than the final deficit, they only missed one more free throw than Alabama. The two teams both had 24 chances from the line, and Louisville made 16 of those. That 2/3 rate isn't winning any awards, but you can point to the other side and say that Alabama had every opportunity to get more free points as well. It just wasn't Louisville's day.
Alabama's Sarah Ashlee Barker put up a decent game for the Tide. Prior to fouling out in the final minutes of the game, she put up 18 points tying Nyla Harris to lead all scorers. She was just 7-16 from the floor and 2-8 from three, but her baskets came at very inopportune times. She was also tied for the team lead in rebounds and added two steals and two assists. Alabama had five players in double figures.
Louisville was led, as I mentioned, by Nyla Harris. Harris also fouled out, but her fifth foul came with just six seconds remaining. Very inconveniently for Louisville, it was an offensive foul with the Cards down three. It was a tough call for Harris, who added eight rebounds, an assist, and two steals to those 18 points. She was 8-13 from the floor and 2-2 from the line. Sydney Taylor was right behind Harris with 17 points. Taylor, who we probably expect to be the team's shooter, struggled yesterday. She went just 5-15 from the floor, 3-9 from beyond the arc (yes she scored all of Louisville's threes), and 4-8 from the free throw line. Louisville needed a few more makes or a few less takes from the guard. Nina Rickards was effective off the bench, picking up a double-double with ten points and ten rebounds.
Not a great one for the Cards statistically, so lets have a look.
F-Free Throws: We've talked at length about 16-24. It's below 70% and you need better than that to win games. Whether Alabama missed theirs as well or not is irrelevant. No letter.
R-Rebounding: Louisville came away with 37 rebounds, including 21 on the offensive end. Bama finished with 33. Although it's close overall, Louisville had more rebounds than Alabama on both ends of the floor. The Cards collected one more of their own misses than Alabama and three more of Bama's. I don't think rebounding was the reason they lost, and I'm counting the second chance points as a reason to make this a Capital R.
E-Effort/Efficiency: They didn't shoot very well and they turned the ball over 18 times. Statistically, it's not great. However, this team weathered a few punches from Alabama and they were right there in the game at the end. They never gave up, so I'm going with a lowercase e with the caveat that it's just for the effort.
D-Defense: Alabama was almost 50% from the floor. Louisville forced 20 turnovers, but man you've got to prevent a bucket or two. The Tide shot no worse than 41% in any quarter and made at least one three in each. Louisville also gave up 13 fast break points and scored just 11 of their own. Perhaps worse, Louisville scored just 10 points off of the 20 turnovers. I'm struggling here, because I'm giving defense a worse grade based on offense, but that's just the way it goes. No letter.
C-Care: Louisville turned the ball over 18 times. We can probably just cut this and the a category here. But we won't. Since we look at the relative performance, Louisville has fewer turnovers than Alabama and fewer than Bama's average. The Tide entered the game 13th in the country with 24 turnovers forced per game. Louisville had more than 60% of that average, though, so it's just going to be a lowercase c.
A-Assists: As I said, 18 turnovers hurts here. We'll get that part out of the way because it's an ATO ratio below 1. Yikes. The Cards finished with 13 assists, which very nearly makes up half of their baskets. 48% is not 50%, though, so it's no letter.
S-Steals: Seven steals for Louisville yesterday. It's one more than Alabama but it's half a steal less than what I set as the arbitrary threshold years ago. Lowercase s.
E-Efficiency: Insert Tracy Morgan "nope. no. uh-uh" gif here. It was not great. Poor shooting overall. Poor shooting from three. Poor shooting from the line. No letter.
That's final scores of _-R-e-_ and c-_-s-_. Those are not likely to win games.
We'll look for a better performance out of Louisville today when they take on Liberty at noon. Like yesterday's game, this one will be on ESPN+ only. Be sure to tune in and check out Jeff's recap of, hopefully, a win tomorrow.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
With the noon kickoff at home in the rivalry game and family in town for the holiday, it's a thin crowd for today's episode of the podcast. Paulie and Jeff are around to hold down the fort, though. They'll discuss Jeff's trip to Pittsburgh and volleyball's bounce back win over Georgia Tech as well as the loss for basketball and what is next for both teams. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!
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Until next time, Go Cards!