LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville basketball team, by virtue of its win at Florida State and overtime win at Notre Dame, has been a bit ahead of the game in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season.

After Saturday’s 80-76 loss to Florida State in the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals slipped back to par, dropping their second straight decision and first of the ACC season at home. Coming on the heels of two of their better performances of the season, it was s step back.

This was not a game for the highlight reels. Florida State plays at the fastest tempo of any team in the ACC. On Saturday, it ground Louisville down a bit in the second half, frustrating the Cardinals into 33.3 percent shooting while pounding them in the paint for 52.5 percent second-half shooting – including nine dunks or layups among its 13 field goals in the half.

CRAWFORD VIDEO | Discussing Louisville's loss to Florida State

Louisville led this game for nearly 23 minutes. But it couldn’t make enough big plays late after falling behind by eight with 7:10 to play.

“You've got to give them credit,” Louisville coach David Padgett said. “They came in here and exposed us on defense, and outrebounded us, which we knew was going to be a big key to the game. So, give them credit. That team was desperate for a win and they came out and showed it."

Louisville didn’t adjust defensively after Florida State began to pour into the paint for baskets at the rim. And it had trouble defending the drives after Ray Spalding left the game with a sprained right ankle with 4:17 to play and could not return. His status for Monday’s game against Syracuse is uncertain.

Uncharacteristically, Louisville seemed to let its offensive frustration leak into its defensive execution. The Cardinals’ ball-movement wasn’t what it was just one game earlier at Virginia – when it shot 60 percent in the second half against the nation’s top defense.

On Saturday, there were too many one-on-one drives without prior ball movement, which played into the hands of a Florida State team that is adept at forcing turnovers and has a shot-blocker in the middle in 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje.

Still, Louisville rallied without Spalding in the closing minutes. Snider hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left to pull Louisville within four. After the Cardinals forced a five-second call on the inbounds attempt, Snider drove into the lane and lofted a shot over Koumadje to cut the lead to two.

Florida State guard Terance Mann left the door open when he missed two free throws with 17 seconds left. Louisville had no timeout to draw up a play, but Padgett was talking to players and appeared to be looking to get a look for McMahon in the corner.

As the play unfolded, V.J. King saw an open lane to the basket and took it, but he pulled up short of the rim and Mann, atoning for his free-throw misses, flew in to block the shot, and Florida State got a dunk on the other end to punctuate the victory.

“Well, it's tough, you don't have a timeout,” Padgett said. “It's tough to get everybody in the right spot. There was a lot of chaos going on. But, we spread the floor. We had a good one-on-one player going downhill. They did a good job of taking away the three, and I think it was Mann who made the block there at the end. Kid made a big defensive play when they needed it."

Maybe it’s to be expected that a team coming off one of its best performances of the season – albeit a loss – would not be as crisp offensively as it was. But Florida State was able to keep Louisville out of the lane, and the Cardinals had difficulty executing.

“It seemed like we just didn’t move the ball, it stopped more than it has been,” King said. “We’ve just got to bounce back fast.”

Deng Adel led the Cardinals with 19 points but was 6 of 17 from the field and had a couple of costly misses late, a layup when he drove straight at the defense, and a dunk in which he tried to cuff the ball and slam it instead of laying it in. Snider finished with 15 points and seven assists, on 4-11 shooting. Spalding had 13 points and nine rebounds, and King had 10 points and six rebounds. Malik Williams had seven points and two boards.

McMahon played 18 minutes and scored three points, while turning it over five times. Freshman Darius Perry scored three points in two minutes off the bench.

The Cardinals were outrebounded 43-34 and were outscored in the paint 34-24.

“The second half, I thought we defended a lot better,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They did such a great job of attacking the lane and getting paint touches (early), we had to really, really try to stay as much as we could between them and the basket. I thought our guys managed the game better in the second half, defended a little better. We just feel fortunate to hang on for the victory. I was proud of my guys because Louisville took us to the woodshed down at our place. We lost our composure, and they did a great job of making us pay every time we missed a shot or turned it over. Tonight I felt like our guys were more poised.”

Louisville plays three of its next four games at home, before a brutal four-game stretch to end the season that includes road trips to Duke and Virginia Tech with the lone home game being against Virginia. The time has come to post some victories, or look at long odds as March approaches.

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