NEW YORK — It was the fourth time it’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, the third time it’s happened against an unranked team and the second time that Madison Square Garden played host to the carnage.
The No. 1 team in the country lost.
On Tuesday night, in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 1 Louisville lost to the unranked Texas Tech, 70-57. That’s the same Texas Tech that arrived in New York City on a three-game losing streak — against Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — and who was forced to play with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury.
Davide Moretti led the way for the reigning national runners-up, finishing with 18 points, while freshman Terrence Shannon chipped in with 13 of his own and Chris Clarke added seven points, 12 boards and six assists.
On Monday morning, we will officially have the fifth No. 1 team in college basketball this season.
Here are three things we learned from Texas Tech’s win over Louisville:
1. BREAKING NEWS: CHRIS BEARD IS A GOOD COACH
We knew this already, and you didn’t need a win in December to tell you this, but it’s worth reiterating a few things about this game before we move on.
Texas Tech have five freshmen on their roster. They have just three eligible players in their program that are not freshmen or sophomores, and two of those three are grad transfers. Only three guys returned from last year’s team, and one of those three is a walk-on. They had just lost three games in a row to unranked teams, and their best player and leading scorer was not healthy enough to play.
Should I mention they were facing off with the No. 1 team in the country, a team that has one of the five best players in the sport and a coach that is as good as anyone?
And if you didn’t know anything about either team entering this game, you would have thought that the 5-3 Red Raiders were actually the nation’s best team while the top-ranked Cardinals were the program in the midst of a rebuild.
As we have become accustomed to under head coach Chris Beard, Texas Tech won this game with their defense. They held Louisville to 34 percent shooting for the game. The Cardinals were 3-for-17 from three. They turned the ball over 19 times and made 18 field goals. Nwora shot 4-for-16 from the floor. It was, to be frank, just as bad as it sounds.
Texas Tech does this to teams. They take you out of what you want to do offensively. If a guy wants to drive right, they make him drive left. If a team wants to run ball-screens, they ice the hell out of it. If a team wants to reverse the ball, the force you to keep it on one side of the floor. The Red Raider coaching staff scouts as well as any staff in the country — in the first half, with their defense right in front of their bench, they were calling out Louisville’s sets as Louisville was calling their plays — and this put Louisville in an impossible spot, because …
2. … LOUISVILLE’S GUARDS WERE NOT (ARE NOT?) GOOD ENOUGH
Like I mentioned before, Texas Tech’s game-plans make it really difficult for their opponents to be able to score out of the offense they run. Louisville couldn’t get good shots out of their sets because Texas Tech wouldn’t let them run what they wanted to run. Part of the reason the Cardinals looked like they were standing around so much offensively is because Texas Tech wouldn’t let them make the first pass to initiate the offense.
Simply put, Texas Tech forces players to make plays.
And Louisville doesn’t have anyone that can do that.
Louisville’s current point guard situation can, at best, be described as “a work in progress,” and that’s probably a bit too flattering. Darius Perry is not good enough. Fresh Kimble is not the answer. The Louisville staff thinks that freshman David Johnson has the potential to solve their issue of playmaking at the point, but he’s coming off of shoulder surgery and has looked – understandably –slow, out of shape and rusty since returning. Adjusting to the college game is tough as a freshmen.
Doing it after invasive surgery?
It’ll take some time.
But facts are facts, and these are facts: The three players I just listed combined to go 3-for-11 from the floor with 10 points, two assists and seven turnovers; Perry had six of those seven turnovers.
That is not good enough, and it will continue to be a problem against teams that pressure the Cardinals.
3. WE WROTE TEXAS TECH OFF TOO SOON
Beard was not thrilled with the way that his team had played in the two weeks before their trip to the Garden.
But he also didn’t think that they were as bad as people like me thought.
“If we get a rebound here, a basket here, it’s a different tone,” Beard said of his slow start. “I never like to overreact. I try to stay steady. We were playing some good basketball, but we were losing to three BCS teams in one possession games, one of them on the road.
“We’re playing five freshmen. One of our best players is out with injury right now. But you know how it is, Prince today, frog tomorrow. If we got a basket here and a rebound there, this is No. 9 Texas Tech against No. 1 Louisville. It doesn’t quite work that way when you lose some close games. I told them, ‘Guys, we’re still the same team, we could be in this locker room right now and we won the game. But we’re really the same team.'”
He wasn’t wrong.