The Louisville Cardinals and Memphis Tigers have one of the most intense conference rivalries in all of college basketball. They have met on the hardwood 88 times with Louisville holding a 53 to 35 advantage. Unless they meet in the upcoming AAC conference tournament, this could be the last time they meet as conference opponents.
The 7th-ranked Cardinals were poised to get a huge road win, only their second against a ranked team this season, win Montrezl Harrell’s emphatic dunk put Louisville ahead by eight with 4:47 remaining in the game. However, Louisville would not make a field goal for the rest of the game. Memphis closed the game on a 15 – 1 run.
Memphis came out strong to start the game, scoring the first six points. The Tigers led 37 – 31 halftime lead while never trailing in the first half.
Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell did most of the scoring in the first half combining for 24 of the Cardinals’ 31 points. The second half was much different for Smith as foul trouble limited him to four points. Smith picked up his fourth foul with 8:36 remaining.
Harrell was dominant the entire game for the Cardinals, scoring a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds. He was not only dominant down low with five dunks, but also hit several jumpers including his first three of the year as the shot clock was expiring in the second half.
Louisville came in to this game with a seven game streak with fewer than 10 turnovers per game. They were uncharacteristically turnover-prone as they finished with 14.
Chris Jones, in his return to his hometown, had one of his worst performances of the season. Jones finished with three points on 1 of 10 shooting from the field. He tallied only one assist, one game after passing for a season-high eight.
Memphis was led by Michael Dixon Jr.’s 18 points. Dixon Jr. was a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line. He was 5 for 5 from the line in the decisive 15 to 1 run to close the game.
Memphis’ senior guard, Chris Crawford, scored 12 points for the Tigers. His perimeter shooting was instrumental in the win. Crawford was 4 of 5 on his 3-pointers. His last three, the biggest of the game, came after Louisville tied the game at 65. Crawford hit a three from the top of the key to give Memphis the lead for good.
Louisville missed a golden opportunity to get another signature win on the road against a ranked team. They defeated then No. 7 Cincinnati last Saturday. The Cardinals travel to Texas to take on No. 23 SMU. Louisville can play themselves into a much higher NCAA tournament seed by closing out the season on a strong note.