The news around Louisville was all about the hiring of their new head football coach Bobby Petrino. However, there was a pretty big basketball matchup at the KFC Yum Center between the #12 Louisville Cardinals and #24 ranked Memphis Tigers. This would be Louisville’s opportunity to get the signature win they sorely need after losing their first two major tests to North Carolina and Kentucky.
Louisville and Memphis have been intense rivals for many years. This is the first time they have played a conference game since they were both in Conference USA in 2005. Tonight’s matchup lived up to its billing as one of the more intense rivalries in the country. It was a physical game throughout with Memphis being the more physical team in pulling out a 73 – 67 win on the road.
Memphis needed this game as much as Louisville. The Tigers were manhandled by Cincinnati at home this past Saturday losing 69 – 53.
It was evident early on that Memphis came ready to play. They jumped out to an early 6 – 0 lead and would hold the lead through the entire first half. Louisville did not lead until Luke Hancock made two free throws to put the Cardinals up 41 – 39 at the 14:54 mark of the second half.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair as there were six lead changes. Memphis would go on to score the game’s final seven points to close out the Cardinals.
Memphis placed all five starters in double figures. Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin led the Tigers with 15 points apiece. Memphis shot 50.9 percent from the field.
Louisville was playing its first home game in 23 days. They struggled offensively shooting only 39.1 percent from the field. They were 6 – 19 from three point range for only 31.6 percent. Memphis Native Chris Jones made only one of his nine shots for a season low two points.
Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell were the most impressive Cardinals offensively. Hancock scored a season-high 20 points with 14 of those coming in the first half. Harrell grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with his 14 points.
Senior guard Russ Smith scored 19 points for the Cardinals. However, he committed 5 turnovers with 4 of those coming in the second half.
You could sense the frustration of Pitino as he gave one of his shorter postgame press conferences this year. Most of his answers were short. The most frustrating thing about this team according to Pitino is the “lack of leadership”. Pitino went on to say, “The coaches are the leaders.”
Louisville returns to the KFC Yum Center for a 1:00 tipoff this Sunday to take on the SMU Mustangs.