NEW YORK–Louisville would have had to pull an upset on Thursday night if they wanted people to talk about something other than their new electric-orange uniforms.
And they did.
Rick Pitino’s Cardinals never trailed against No. 9 Marquette at Madison Square Garden, on their way to an 84-71 victory in New York City.
“I thought the guys did a tremendous job of pushing the pace tonight, getting a lot of easy baskets,” said Pitino. “They maintained their poise…Real proud of the guys.”
The backcourt combo of Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva led the way, combining for 38 points. Siva also had eight rebounds and six assists.
Louisville is beginning to show itself as a team that, though dangerous, is difficult to weigh for anyone trying to fill out a bracket.
Looking at the Cardinals defensively, the effort on Thursday night was impressive, especially considering the circumstances.
After chasing down a loose ball with close to eight minutes left in the first half, center Gorgui Dieng was whistled for a foul. He then had two. In displeasure, he slammed the ball on the ground and was called for a technical. Though questionable, perhaps, that gave Dieng three fouls.
The Cardinals were forced to play without one of the best shotblockers in the conference until almost midway through the second half, but they were able to manage.
“When Gorgui went out of the game, [forward Jared Swopshire] gave us a big lift….We didn’t lose a whole lot,” said Pitino. “We got a chance to rest Gorgui in unusual conditions.”
Credit that to their ability to force turnovers, with the Golden Eagles committing a near-Big East tournament record 26 on Thursday night.
“They haven’t had a better meal all season than what we served them tonight,” said Marquette coach Buzz Williams. “Seemed like we just kept passing the mic at a karaoke bar, ‘I’m not sure of the words, you try.'”
Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder was never able to get things going offensively, either, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
“Me and Chane [Behanan] talked about it when I subbed in that we wanted to keep him from getting touches, especially in the paint,” said Swopshire. “So I feel like we were able to do that.”
But the offensive end might be where frustration happens most when evaluating Pitino’s team.
After shooting 39% from the floor in Wednesday night’s win over Seton Hall, the Cardinals shot 48% and posted 50 points in the first half against Marquette.
Then it was back to their old ways in the second half, shooting below 30% and looking more like they were burning the last 20 minutes than keeping their foot on the pedal.
Which team will we see the rest of the season? If you’re going to pick the Cardinals to make a run in the NCAA tournament, it could be nerve-wracking to watch.