LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Just about everything good the No. 1-ranked University of Louisville basketball team has done this season, it did poorly on Tuesday night against Texas Tech in Madison Square Garden.
The crisp offense, tough, hard-nosed finishing, sharp-shooting and solid shot-selection all seemed to miss the plane to New York City, or wilt under the defensive pressure of a Texas Tech team looking for the program’s first-ever win over a No. 1 ranked team.
The Red Raiders got their victory, and Louisville got a game video full of lessons learned in a 70-57 loss in the Jimmy V Classic.
The Cardinals, who have been a top-five offensive team all season, couldn’t find an offensive groove on Tuesday. Their point guard play was poor. Their shot selection was sketchy. And in general they were outplayed and outworked by a Texas Tech team that came in on a three-game losing streak and was playing without its leading scorer.
Louisville became the fourth No. 1 team to lose already this season, and it never really threatened seriously in the second half, getting within four points with 8:42 left, before Texas Tech pushed its lead back out.
"Give all the credit in the world to Texas Tech," Louisville coach Chris Mack said. "They took the fight to us tonight. They lost a lot from last year, but they haven’t lost their identity. They’re a very tough team on the defensive end and completely negated a lot of things we wanted to do. (Texas Tech coach) Chris (Beard) does a great job and did a better job preparing his kids for the environment and type of game it was better than I did. We're going to have to grow from this and use it as a lesson learned."
For Louisville, it was a lesson in playing while No. 1 -- if you lose, it's a game that goes into the other team's media guide. And Texas Tech has every reason to be proud of this one.
Texas Tech took Louisville out of almost everything it wanted to do offensively. The Cardinals went a stretch of 9:45 in the first half without making a single shot, but still trailed by only three at half despite opening the game on 3-18 shooting.
Jordan Nowra made just 1 of his first 9 shots and was 4 of 15 in the game, finishing with 14 points.
"He didn't play very well, but he wasn't the only one," Mack said. "We were disjointed on offense because we were taking some bad shots. And we were turning it over in transition. . . . He played much harder in the second half, but h needed to do that to start the game, and he knows that."
Unable to get solid offense out of their sets, Louisville needed players to create, and they couldn't. Point guards Fresh Kimble and Darius Perry finished a combined 2-8 from the field with just two assists and five turnovers.
"Our point guards and our guards in general have to play better," Mack said.
Steven Enoch, who got Louisville out to a lead early, gave the Cards an offensive boost late in the first half, but the Cards couldn't get him the ball enough in the second half to make a difference. He finished with 10 points, but down the stretch Louisville's entry passes often became turnovers.
"They really flock to the ball well, and when we're trying to post up Steven, they're trying to push him out," Mack said. "So when those entry passes were going in, he was in the middle of two and three players. It speaks to their toughness and mentality, and their alertness on that end of the floor. Early in the game we took way too many ill-advised shots and made too many poor decisions, and because of that I don't think we ever felt very comfortable on the offensive end."
Louisville had an early seven-point lead and had several chances to lead by more, but the Cardinals took some uncharacteristically wild shots early, and gave up a few careless turnovers.
"You're up, but you're charging over guys on 2-on-1s, and I thought we could've gone up 12, 14 points, because we were getting a ton of stops," Mack said. "They were feeling their way through the game offensively and we didn't take advantage of it. Then like a lot of games, they get some life, start believing in themselves, and it got harder on the offensive end for us."
Texas Tech was led by Davide Moretti with 12 points. The shorter Red Raiders outrebounded Louisville 40-38.
Louisville shot just 32.7 percent from the field (18-53). Texas Tech shot 39.7 percent. The Red Raiders scored 18 points off 19 Louisville turnovers.
By the end of the game, Louisville was in meltdown mode. The Cardinals couldn't execute offensively, turned the ball over, even coach Chris Mack drew a rare technical foul.
Texas Tech was the tougher team at the end of the game. And Louisville, as experienced as it is, returns home knowing it has a ways to go still.
"It's all about parity," Mack said. "They're a very well-coached team. They had a week to prepare. They came in wanting the game. We didn't do as good of a job. That's my fault."
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