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Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Dismal 2nd Quarter Dooms Cards -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Louisville Falls 77-67 to NC State

After a frenzied first six minutes saw Louisville hold a 1-4 point lead throughout the early portion of the game, Aziaha James hit a pair of threes to give herself as many points (16) as Louisville had at the time and moved NC State to 4-point lead with 1:47 to go in the first quarter. NC State would not yield the advantage for the remainder of the game. Despite winning the third quarter (and second half) by six points, Louisville could reduce their deficit to no fewer than six. The Cards were, once more, victims of a very bad quarter, losing the second 19-8 to head to the locker room staring down a 17-point margin. The loss drops Louisville into a tie with NC State for second (0.5 games behind VT) with still a brutal schedule ahead.

The game got off to an inauspicious start for Louisville, with the tip going to Aziaha James, who blitzed down the court in a one-on-one situation with Syd Taylor and drew the first foul just six seconds into the contest. James entered the game fifth in the conference with 15.2 ppg which, as I noted in the opener, she reached in the first quarter. She went 1-2 from the line before Louisville immediately turned the ball over. If you're the doom and gloom type, you'd probably expect that to be a sign of bad things to come. As it turned out in the end, you would have been right, but in the moment Olivia Cochran immediately rectified her mistake by forcing a steal under the basket and scoring Louisville's first points. After Louisville traded a couple of buckets with James, someone else took a shot for the Wolfpack. They shouldn't have, I suppose, since Louisville rebounded the miss and used an and-1 by Nyla Harris to make it a 4-point game. 

The Cards would miss a number of opportunities to extend their first quarter lead, and it ultimately came back to bite them. After James's third three in a row (broken up in NCST scoring only by a Mimi Collins free throw) moved the score to 20-16, Louisville was reeling. Those threes were the driving force behind a 10-2 run over five minutes that inverted the Cards' advantage. A pair of traded two pointers seemed to wake Louisville back up before their worst nightmare came true: other players for NC State realized they could score. The Wolfpack's fourth and fifth made threes of the quarter helped them to a six-point lead at the end of the first. The Cards trailed 28-22, and it would only get worse for Louisville from there.

Louisville turned the ball over on their first possession again, so that wasn't super cool. They also gave up an offensive rebound which managed to not turn into a made three. As a result, the Cards scored the first basket of the second quarter to make it 28-24. The next points Louisville put up, free throws by Kiki Jefferson, made the score 43-26. Quick math says that's a 15-0 run, and it's usually difficult to win games when you give those up. Four more points from NC State made it a 21-point game before Louisville picked up two baskets at the end of the half to make it 47-30. Over NC State's long run, Louisville turned the ball over just twice, and the Wolfpack made only one three-pointer. The Cards just could not hit the broad side of a barn. They went 3-14 from the floor in the second.

Halftime included a ceremony recognizing cancer survivors and memorializing those who have been lost. Last night's game was the annual Play4Kay game, in which the Hall of Fame coach of the Wolfpack, Kay Yow, is remembered and money is raised for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The program announced donations totaling in the thousands raised just during the halftime pledge event. It is often easy to get wrapped up in pink-out games without fully embracing the point of it all, so to see all that was done as part of last night's event was a good reminder. As one minor note, it was a little odd for NC State to do a pink-out in the arena but choose to wear black with pink while Louisville wore all pink. There was nothing particularly wrong with the decision, it just had the unfortunate effect of being moderately confusing at times on the broadcast.

Louisville came out in the third and forced an NC State turnover on the Wolfpack's first possession. Progress, you say, right? Nope. Cards turned it over on their first possession again. Louisville's offensive struggles continued, as they were unable to move off of 30 points until two-and-a-half minutes into the second half. Fortunately, NC State was largely unable to score as well, making just one free throw in that time. Louisville's back-to-back baskets gave them a sign of life before yet another three, NC State's seventh of the game, pushed the lead back to 17. The Cards weren't quite done, though. A 10-4 run brought the lead down to 11, but NC State had just enough in the tank to stay on top of this one. I think that if Louisville had seen the deficit get down to single digits in the third quarter, things may have gone differently. Unfortunately, both times the Cards got it down to 11, the Wolfpack scored on the ensuing possession. The second time saw a brief spurt by NC State push the lead back to 16 with their 8th three of the game. The Cards scored seven of the last eight points of the quarter to make it 59-49 as they entered the final stanza, but that double-digit deficit still haunted them.

Louisville managed to not go 4-4 on opening possession turnovers. In fact, they cut the lead to single digits for the first time in nearly 20 minutes on their first possession of the fourth. After Aziaha James (who else) scored to push it back to 10, Louisville still didn't go away. Louisville did what they do well for a couple of minutes, hitting free throws and playing good free throw defense (NC State missed a pair). With the lead down to six, Wes Moore dialed up the go-to play: have James score. She did and, for good measure, Madison Hayes hit a three to follow it. All of the sudden the lead was back to 11 with under four to go. The Cards found a three of their own and brought it back down to six after a Jayda Curry three and a Nina Rickards steal and lay-in. Of course, James hit another three and that would just about do it. A turnover and free throws pushed the lead back to 11 and it was all over but the crying. Jayda Curry hit another three with 41 seconds remaining to cut the deficit back down to six but it was too late by that point. The Cards were too long in fouling (and NC State too good at hitting free throws) and too slow in scoring (and couldn't really make threes) to make a late charge. Final score 77-67.

Louisville shot 25-68 from the floor. It wasn't great. They outscored NC State on points in the paint, fast break points, and second chance points. They were outscored 30-12 from beyond the arc. That's the game. Sometimes it really is that simple. NC State shot only 43% from the field. It's a 7% advantage on Louisville, sure, but it's also worse than they shot from three. The Wolfpack were 47.6% (10-21) from three-point land. Do you remember after the Wake Forest game when Jeff Walz said (paraphrased) "I'm ok with someone who can't shoot being left open for a three, but not when we leave someone open that the scout says to cover"? I do. It seems the team may have forgotten, though I'm sure Walz has reminded them plenty. Aziaha James leads the Wolfpack with (now) 15.8 points per game. Madison Hayes shoots 45% from three. Allowing those two to go 8-15 from beyond the arc is BAD. Hitting threes isn't Louisville's game this year. They're only 32% on the year and hit just 4.7 per game. So they cannot let the opponent go off from outside. Louisville has four losses now. In the other three, they gave up 9-24 (Alabama), 7-18 (UConn), and 6-14 (UNC) from three. They made no more than four 3-pointers of their own in any of those games. 

Let's look at the Reports.

(we bring back Fred Gwynne -- Herman Munster -- for last night's debacle)

F - Free Throws: It's a lowercase f here. I'll spare you the soliloquy. Louisville was 13-17 for 76.5%. It was fine. They went 5-8 in the fourth quarter, missing their last three free throws while trailing by fewer than 10 points. Cool.

R - Rebounding: Louisville won the rebounding battle by a scant one rebound, 42-41. They managed to snag five more offensive boards and won the second chance points category, so I'll give credit there. Since NC State is regularly +9 and Louisville's average is only +6.7, I'm actually going to give the Cards a capital R here. It was a solid rebounding performance.

E - Effort/Execution: Uhhhh. Hmm. Well, they fought back from down 21 in the first half. But, they were down 21 in the first half and gave up a 15-0 run. At some point, the disappearing act Louisville pulls in at least one quarter per game has to stop. No letter.

D - Defense: Nope. As I mentioned, they were nowhere on three-point defense. Allowing an opponent to shoot almost 50% from there when that's their game is not good. The number of those given up in transition was also mystifying. NC State scores 77 points per game. That's exactly what they did in this one. I'm pretty sure we expect better than statistically average from Louisville's defense. No letter.


C - Care: The Cards turned the ball over 12 times. It really doesn't seem that bad when you consider three of those were to open each quarter. It's fewer than NC State's 13. It's only a shade under NC State's average, though, as they force opponents into 14 per game. Lowercase c.

A - Assists: Double-digit turnovers always hurt here. Hero ball is also suboptimal. At one point in last night's game, Lindsay remarked, "They're just throwing it at the rim." It was true. The ball movement wasn't great, and the Cards finished with just nine assists... on 25 made baskets. Yikes. No letter.

S - Steals: Cards had seven. That's less than both 7.5 and 8, the standard we want and the number NC State pulled. The Wolfpack also added four blocks to Louisville's 0. Ew. No letter.

E - Efficiency: Over 75% from the line by one free throw is still over 75%. 36.8% from the floor and 25% from three (4-16, ugh), won't win you any awards. Lowercase e.

Louisville finishes with f-R-_-_ and c-_-_-e in the reports. With that kind of performance, it's going to be tough to win games, especially games against top-five opponents on the road. Maybe that's why it's so frustrating that it feels like Louisville let this one slip away. Unlike the game that Louisville saw everything fall apart in the fourth quarter against NC State a couple of years ago, this one was just a slow death that began fairly early at the hands of compounding errors. And it was still a two-possession game with three minutes to go. It's almost unbelievable. 

Louisville was paced in this one by Olivia Cochran. big "O" had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Both categories led the team and her rebounds were the best on the floor. Madison Hayes was the only other player with double-digit rebounds, as she added 10 to her 12 points for NC State (all threes). Aziaha James led all scorers with 28. Two Cards joined Cochran in double-digit scoring, as Kiki Jefferson put up 16 and Jayda Curry had 12. Those two were 10-10 from the line, with Jefferson managing to avoid the commentator's curse every time Ward and Antonelli attempted to put it on her (she leads the league in free throws, you know?). Nyla Harris finished with nine, Syd Taylor with eight, and Nina Rickards with five. That adds up to 67 if you check it. 

Curry's 12 points were the only bench points Louisville got, which was rare of th Cards and a little disappointing, since we saw 31 combined minutes from Merissah Russell, Eylia Love, and Elif Istanbulluoglu. Curry was also one of four players to have at least 13 shot attempts, one of three with at least 17. Jefferson got her 16 points from 13 attempts. James' 28 came from 18 shots. Curry and Cochran both had 17. Olivia was 8-17 from the floor, while Curry was just 3-17. I know shooters shoot, and I know that Curry hit two threes in the fourth that could have been big if the game was in a different spot. But it wasn't, and she was 1-13 from the floor before that. Curry is shooting 40% from the floor and 40% from three this season, so it's not like she's building a house of bricks on the year. But she was last night, and the insistence on missing, especially early in possessions, hurt Louisville.

The Cards get no time off, as they host another top-15 matchup on Thursday night when the Irish come to town. Notre Dame is just one game behind Louisville and NC State, sitting at 7-3 in conference and 17-4 overall. Louisville will be the lower-ranked team in Yum! Center, as the Irish are currently 12th. I noted last night that it doesn't seem like this team can win big games. That seems particularly true on the road, but they were shaky against Syracuse last week before turning it on after the first quarter. All eyes will be on the Cards with a 6PM tip on ESPN. We'll see how they respond.

Until next time, Go Cards!


  1. Cards lose to NC State one of the worst shooting nights that the Cardinals had this season in particularly Jayda Curry really couldn't get on track outside shot was not falling at all.

    NC state has a lot of weapons and they shoot good from outside they have a lot of makers on their team this year.

    So all in all this was a tough game I thought the cards would be lucky to steal this game ,but this was the outcome I predicted.

    Nyla Harris is a Beast on the boards.🏀🏀🏀🏀🏀

    L1C4 Go Cards

  2. iT WAS GOOD TO SEE THE RALLY LATE FOR UOFL , but that fold in the second quarter was the downfall. NCST is a tough place to play and I want them (maybe ACC tournament) on neutral ground next time

    Nick O

  3. Gotta learn that ONE bad quarter can doom you. Other than that, they showed they can play with, AND BEAT, top notch teams, even on their home court👌

  4. A few of those early Curry misses go in and we are talking W instead of L. I question Walz strategy there.

    Blue Lou

  5. The sooner you all realize Jefferson is the stud you need to feed, the better.

    JMU True

    1. Thank goodness we're NOT a "one horse" team, IMO😋

  6. Having watched with interest (Wake Forest fan) I hope Walz never does realize that Jefferson is the gun they need to feed the ammo to. The rest of the league thanks you, Jeff. I hope we can someday we a basketall power, but not counting on it. Why we dumped Jen Hoover still baffles me.

    Willie in Sec 109

    1. Hoover went to UK tom get more punishment from UofL. I guess a job is a job


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