CRAWFORD | Louisville can't match Miami's seniors late, falls 73 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville can't match Miami's seniors late, falls 73-65

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Deng Adel drives for a basket in Louisville's loss to Miami. (AP photo) Deng Adel drives for a basket in Louisville's loss to Miami. (AP photo)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (WDRB) — Most every game has a moment, it seems. There’s a moment where you can hit the pause button, and something is said, or done, a big shot is made or a big rebound grabbed or a team gets a stop. Something happens that is the key moment.

On Saturday, with the University of Louisville in town for Senior Day in Miami’s BankUnited Center, the moment was clear. It just wasn’t a moment in the No. 11 Cardinals’ favor in a 73-65 loss to the No. 12 Hurricanes.

Louisville led by five with 7:57 left and the teams headed to the benches for a media timeout. Miami coach Jim Larranaga met senior point guard Angel Rodriguez out on the court.

“I said to him, ‘Listen, you need to show everybody in this arena how hard you’re willing to play to win this game, and how important this game is to you. And your teammates will follow,’” Larranaga said. “‘I want you to pick up their point guard full-court, play with great defensive intensity, and see what happens.’ And from that point, he was absolutely sensational, the best player on both ends, scoring, vision, rebounding, and his on-ball pressure created in his teammates a vision of how we expected them to play.”

I could write about mistakes Louisville made. There were some down the stretch. They went 4:51 without scoring a point. They missed nine straight shots. They missed open shots and a couple of difficult ones. Trey Lewis missed a couple of layups. They were unable to get the ball to big man Chinanu Onuaku — largely because of Miami’s ball pressure.

But this Miami team is ranked No. 12 in the nation and is 9-0 at home in the ACC. Teams like Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia came in and couldn’t win. And Miami just played harder, and frankly, its seniors played on both ends like the guys on the court who wanted it the most. That's not knocking Louisville's effort. It's praising Miami's.

Louisville played well enough for 32 minutes to win the game. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino wasn’t too hard on his team about the final eight, though he did spend a good deal of time talking to his players in the locker room after the game.

“I told the team, both teams played really good basketball, fun basketball, great passing, but they were the better team in the second half, and you have to give them all the credit,” Pitino said. “We struggled defending the pick-and-roll. And we went inside in the first half and put on an offensive clinic with Nanu passing and getting six assists. We didn’t go to him as much in the second half. He got a little tired, and got a little hurt. Going inside and cutting off of him. But they were the better team. Too often, people can’t give credit to the other team. We played well. They were just better.”

Why was Miami better? A lot of it had to do with four seniors playing their final game at home. And they were playing for a crack at first place in the ACC.

So was Louisville, of course. But it’s not quite the same. The legacy for most of Louisville’s young players will be written in the future. The legacy for this Miami group will be written over the next month.

“We certainly did not want their last game here to be a loss,” Larranaga said.

No Louisville players scored in double-figures in the second half. Rodriguez had 12 points, two assists and two rebounds in the half. Miami shot 17 free-throws in the second half. Louisville shot 4.

“It’s experience, and it’s building something,” Pitino said. “. . . Miami has all the tools, because they’re long, they shoot free throws well, they shoot it well and they have experience. And they have a good backcourt. Angel is tough in pick-and-rolls at the end of the game, which you can isolate. . . . They’re very well-coached, well-drilled. They’re one of many teams who can win four games and get to a Final Four.”

I asked Pitino if there was anything from an execution standpoint he wanted to see from his team on offense that he didn’t. He noted that Miami did a better job defensively on Onuaku, fronting him more.

“To be honest with you, Eric, we missed four open shots,” Pitino said. “Damion on the baseline with a 16-footer. We had an in-and-out for a three with Trey, we had Trey going to the basket twice getting fouled and not getting called for a layup. We had Q wide open, didn’t make the shot. Sometimes you just miss. You look for reasons to blame, and there are none. They’re just better.”

At one point in the second half, Pitino shouted something into the BankUnited Center crowd, at some fans, and the crowd got animated.

“I just said do you have any vernacular here at Miami other than ‘Shut up and sit down?’ Come up with some jokes or something,” Pitino said.

But the coach had nothing but kind words for his players — and for Miami.

“I told them, this is the most overachieving team I’ve coached in my life outside of Providence in 1987,” Pitino said. “Because mentally they’ve been just let down like a balloon burst, and you would think right now we’re playing for a one seed, with how hard we’re playing. We beat Pitt on the road with two walk-ons in the game. We played a great first half here. We’re playing so hard, that this is probably the team I’ll always appreciate the most. We won’t hang any banners and won’t have any Final Fours. But personally, coaching 41 years, I think I’ll look back and appreciate this team so much. They won’t get down. They’ll play two games just as hard as they did tonight.”

The Cards went 26-56 from the field, 7-22 from three-point range. Miami was 23-43 and 8-11. The Hurricanes outscored Louisville 19-6 from the free-throw line. 

Snider led the Cards with 14 points, Lewis added 13 and Onuaku had 6. Deng Adel started and finished with 9 points. Lee struggled, with only 6. Miami got 47 points from its senior class, including 25 of its 37 in the second half.

“These young guys have a wonderful, wonderful future,” Pitino said of his team. “The future is great for so many of them.”

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