Louisville guard Russ Smith said the Cards' loss to Memphis Thursday is the most frustrating loss he's been a part of.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This is all you need to know about why the University of Louisville was beaten by Memphis, 73-67, at the KFC Yum! Center Thursday night:
About 20 minutes after the game ended there was still confusion about the defensive confusion the Cards showed in the second half.
One player said there were multiple plays late in the game where multiple teammates were aligned in a zone defense when the Cardinals were supposed to be playing man-to-man.
Not so, another U of L player said. It was only one possession and one guy who was out of position.
Now you understand why Louisville coach Rick Pitino looked as if he had bitten into a cold calzone after the game. It was a bizarre post-game scene. Several Memphis players exchanged unpleasant words with Louisville fans as the Tigers exited the floor. Some members of the U of L staff were miffed by the joyous fist-pumping celebration by Memphis coach Josh Pastner. Pastner was miffed -- and perturbed -- because he said he heard Louisville fans calling his players "thugs."
Pastner and another Louisville fan continued the fun with a shouting match in a hallway that leads to the media room. And when Pastner faced the media, he expressed his admiration for U of L and the rivalry.
Not that any of it made the Cardinals feel any better. You never want to burp like that in the final minutes at home in conference games. You don't want to shoot less than 40 percent from the field while the other team is making nearly 51 percent of its shots. You don't want to get three points and seven rebounds in a combined 41 minutes from your two post players.
You don't want your guys still sounding confused about the defensive breakdowns that enabled Memphis to outscore Louisville 14-3 in the final 3:30. One thing that was not confusing: Pitino's post-game speech in his locker room was brief and brisk.
"This is one of the most frustrating losses that I've probably been a part of," U of L guard Russ Smith said. "We were right there and you just want to get over that barrier. We had the game under control and we lost it."
This one had the puzzling feel of the game the Cardinals gave away at Georgetown in mid-January last season. Or the double-overtime stumble against Notre Dame two seasons ago when Louisville wobbled to a 1-3 start in the Big East.
Louisville (13-3) did not play great. The Cards only generated offense from three people – Smith (19 points), Luke Hancock (season-high 20 while making a pair of threes) and Montrezl Harrell (14 points and 11 boards). Everybody else went 6 for 22.
They were outrebounded by a Memphis team that ranks fifth in the American Athletic Conference in rebounding margin. They turned the ball over 14 times, giving them 31 in the last two games.
But there they were, leading 64-59 with less than four minutes to play against a Memphis team that had looked awful while losing to Cincinnati by 16 points five days ago.
"Maybe this will wake people up," said senior center Stephan Van Treese.
"It's terribly frustrating right now," Smith said.
This is why: In the final 3 ½ minutes, Louisville had two turnovers, five missed shots, one missed free throw and three points. During the same decisive stretch, the Tigers had three dunks, a layup and six free throws.
Any other questions about what went wrong?
"We got confused on defense a couple times with the game on the line with what defense we were in," Pitino said. "We didn't get confused one time last year. I don't know what's so difficult about it … I probably can't play as many defenses, although it's only two.
"Our defense is not as good this year. It hasn't been. I don't want to beat that horse to death. It hasn't been."
No exaggeration there. Memphis joined North Carolina (another loss) as the two teams that have shot better than 50 percent against the Cards this season. Only three teams made better than 50 percent of their shots in 40 games against U of L last season.
Somebody asked Russ Smith if this is simply one of those lulls the Cardinals have encountered at a similar point in recent seasons. Or if this team has issues it needs to fix.
"Nobody wants to be in that situation," Smith said. "Everybody hates that situation. Just to be in a hole and come out of it. The last few years I've been lucky enough to come out of the dark hole. You just don't know.
"You're going to keep giving effort. You're going to keep falling down. But you just have to eventually make it out. You never know where you're going to make it out. That's what's frustrating right now."