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Saturday, March 9, 2024


Slow Start Dooms Cards Against ND

Louisville basketball had a strong first half against Notre Dame to close out the regular season before folding down the stretch in the second half. The rubber match between the two teams, a 4/5 matchup in the ACC tournament, was reversed, with Louisville scoring just 17 first half points before outscoring the Irish by eight in the second half. The Cards needed more, as they still fell 77-68 in the ACC quarterfinals and will await the selection committee's decision to determine their postseason fate.

Louisville opened the game with 3-13 shooting in the first quarter and, though you might not think it possible, shot worse in the second quarter with a 3-16 effort. They made one three-pointer in each, but the shooting was poor inside the arc as well. Louisville was 2-8 in the first and an abysmal 2-13 in the second. That's 15%. Goodness gracious. To make matters worse in the second quarter, which they entered already trailing 19-10, Louisville attempted 0 free throws. Fortunately for the Cards, Notre Dame also cooled off a bit, shooting just 4-14 from the field and making just one three-pointer. Unfortunately, the Irish went to the line ten times in the first half and they walked away with ten points. 

Louisville finished the first half with 13 turnovers. Since Notre Dame only finished the game with five steals, I'll let you fill in the rest of that puzzle. We've talked about Louisville's defensive lapses and struggles to account for the game plan, but, generally, scoring and turnovers hadn't been massive issues for this team until recently. Whether it is a matter of everyone being in their own heads or getting tired after a rigorous schedule, it really doesn't make much difference. We're in the "win or go home" portion of the season, and Louisville has shown a startling propensity to "go home" of late.

Trailing 34-17 at the half, Louisville was facing an uphill battle, and frankly, it wouldn't have been that surprising to see them pack up and get ready to head to the airport. There is fight in this team, though. Louisville came out in the second half firing, led by Jayda Curry (who scored 23 of her 26 after the break), and took the third quarter 22-17. The Cards were 8-17 from the floor in the third, including a much improved 7-14 from inside the arc. The Irish didn't quite agree with the idea of flipping the script, though, as they still shot 7-14 from the floor themselves. Louisville also fell apart a bit at the free throw line, leaving five of ten possible points on the table. 

The Cards biggest chance to turn things around came as they built momentum at the end of the quarter. Notre Dame held its 17-point lead, or thereabouts, for most of the quarter until the last two minutes. Louisville took advantage of some Notre Dame misses to clear out the boards and use an 8-1 run (the one point coming on a technical free throw) to cut the lead to ten. With a chance to go into the fourth trailing by just ten, Louisville needed a stop on the last possession as ND tried to hold for the last shot. Hannah Hidalgo missed a jumper as the clock wound down, but Louisville wasn't positioned well for the rebound and a putback layup moved the lead back to 12. 

Had the Cards entered the fourth quarter on their run, perhaps things could have continued to fall in their favor. As it was, Notre Dame used the opportunity to right the ship. Louisville continued to apply pressure, cutting the ND lead that had grown to 14 back down to single digits. At the media timeout, Notre Dame led by just eight, having made a shot after Louisville brought it down to six. Merissah Russell sank a three out of the timeout to make the lead just five points, the closest the game had been since four minutes into the game when ND extended their lead to 10-2. As the seconds wound down (and the free throw numbers went up) the Cards continued reeling in the Irish. An Olivia Cochran jumper with 31 seconds left made it a one possession game at 71-68. Louisville wouldn't score again. Playing the foul-and-then-try-to-score game went awry when a Notre Dame steal incensed Coach Jeff Walz enough to earn his second technical and hit the showers a minute early. A 6-0 run for Notre Dame, all scored when the clock was stopped for free throws, sealed the deal. 

The FRED Report

F - Free Throws: Louisville just eked out a lowercase 'f' here. They shot 19-27 from the free throw line, with the 5-10 third quarter really hurting their chances to make a splash. The Cards shot 11-13 from the line down the stretch, which kept them in touching distance, but it wasn't enough. (Notre Dame was 24-30 from the line, and went 3-4 on technical free throws.)

R - Rebounding: The Cards had a fairly sizable advantage in rebounds, bringing down 39 compared to 31 for Notre Dame. Louisville picked up more points in the paint (30-28) but fell flat on second chance points, losing the category 9-4. With more rebounds on both ends of the floor, I'll award a capital 'R'. Could more rebounds in key situations have helped? Sure. I'd say more buckets would have helped more. 

E - Effort/Execution: As I mentioned, Louisville could have mailed it in in that second half. Instead, they fought back from a 17-point deficit to make it a one possession game in the critical moments of the fourth quarter. I'm quite torn. I want to reward that effort, but the execution was poor from the top down. A pair of technicals sending Walz packing is bad. Shooting 38% from the floor overall is bad. 20 turnovers is very bad. I think the cons outweigh the pros. I'm going to outside the bounds of the grading scale and give a tiny 'e'.

Brazil's current Fred, Frederico Rodrigues de Paula Santos (L) not to be confused with their old Fred, Frederico Chaves Guedes (R).

D - Defense:
Another tough one. Louisville held Notre Dame to just 40.7% from the floor and forced 15 turnovers. The Cards had more blocks (3-2) and matched the Irish in steals with five. Notre Dame had a better percentage, but both teams made the same number of threes. Notre Dame took three more free throws, but four of those came off of technicals. The Cards committed one less foul on the floor. Louisville gave up just four fast break points, but that kind of exposes their set defense as Notre Dame scored 22 points off Louisville turnovers. The Irish are scoring 80 points per game, and Louisville held them closer to 70 before the flurry of free throws. That said, 77 is the most that the Cards have given up to ND in their three games and is tied for the third-most they've given up in conference play. I'll go lowercase 'd'. (As an aside, Louisville has won just three games all season when giving up at least 70 points.)

Final tally of f-R-e-d. There's not much else to say about this game. It was a valiant effort down the stretch, but it was ultimately an obstacle of Louisville's own making. The Cards are not where you want them to be in the middle of March. A team is ideally playing its best ball at this point of the season. Instead, Louisville, who is now 24-9 overall, is just 6-6 since the calendar turned to February. The trend that started with the win over Syracuse and loss to NC State continues, as the Cards have alternated wins and losses without fail. If that pattern holds, Louisville's run of Sweet 16s will end. Given that they have a loss to Virginia and two thoroughly unimpressive wins over Boston College in that stretch, I'm not overly optimistic that they can avoid an upset in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament. 

ACC Tourney Pick 'Em

It's going to come down to the wire here folks. While there are some who are a bit off the mark (sorry, Joe), seventeen entries remain above .500 and plenty of brackets are still in play for the win. Full standings are below. A perfect day for Arthur yesterday sees a new face join the top of the pack.

8-3: Jared, Nick O, Paulie, Arthur

7-4: Katy, Jason, Vivian, Karen, Emily, Kenneth Stark Sr

6-5: Blue Lou, Case, Daryl, Bea, Jeff, Mike D

5-6: Sonja, Kenny Schneider, The Chimps

4-7, 3-8, 2-9: Cindy, Clemson Cuz, Joe Hill

Volleyball Starts Spring Play

Louisville played a fairly rotated lineup in their spring opener against Dayton yesterday evening. Charitie Luper was out as she nurses a foot injury and PK was limited with a hand injury. Though the final match score was a 3-1 loss to Dayton, I'd say Coach Dani Busboom-Kelly was not significantly concerned with the outcome. Spring play is about getting your new faces comfortable with the team (if they've arrived early) and seeing what some of the bench players can contribute as they work to backfill spots that have opened up. The Cards are on the road for their next two spring matches before returning to L&N Federal Credit Union Arena in April. 

Softball Postponed

The opening of Louisville softball's ACC season was delayed due to the weather that came through the area yesterday. The Cards and Hokies will wait out the rain and look to start the series with a double-header today before the finale tomorrow. Louisville lists a 3PM start time for the first game, with admission being free and ACC Network Extra hosting the stream. 

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We should have a full house on today's show, and we'll try to have a more sunny disposition than the current Louisville forecast, despite the results of the week. 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!

Cardinal Couple YouTube: Link
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Apple Podcasts: Link
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Overcast (free account required): Link
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RadioPublic: Link
Spotify: Link

Until next time, Go Cards!


1 comment:

  1. The first half the Cards were anemic on offense also on the second half Jayda Curry🔥🔥🔥🏀 is the alpha she can score the basketball she has to believe in herself💯.

    KiKi and Syd somehow they don't play to the potential on offense and defense all the time.I think they were tired like CJW said they never been at this level of competition late in the year.

    CJW put in Lele Love for Kiki was a good move I think he needs to Give Love A Little More PT she plays hard defense.

    Shout out to Olivia Cochran and Nyla Harris battling down low holding their own.

    Go Cards L1C4


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