LOUISVILLE 87, MEMPHIS 78
December 15, 2012
Memphis came out swinging against No. 6 Louisville Saturday afternoon. The Tigers jumped out to a 16 point first half lead at 25-9 as the Cardinals appeared disjointed and out of sorts. But the Cards steadied, regrouped and cut the lead to 35-28 at the break, positioning themselves for a big second half comeback.
After the break, Louisville's pressure defense, three-point and free throw shooting proved too much for the Tigers, as the Cardinals delivered an impressive knockout punch on the road to improve their record to 9-1. Louisville forced 24 turnovers, made seven three-pointers and converted 38 FT's to win 87-78.
Chane Behanan led Louisville with 22 points, while Russ Smith and Peyton Siva each finished with 19 and combined to make 21-24 foul shots, including several key ones down the stretch to preserve the win. Luke Hancock added 11 points off the bench, and hit 3-6 3's, while Wayne Blackshear finished with 8 points, two assists and a steal.
"This is a gigantic [win]. The fans don't realize what an environment this is. This is as good as the KFC Yum or Kansas tonight. They were loaded for bear tonight with a great, great home court advantage and their kids responded in a big way. But we were a tough team in the second half, true road team and I'm real proud of our kids.
"I lit into our guys at halftime and just said, 'look, we're a defensive team, you're missing shots and running after the rebound instead of getting back on defense.' I said, 'We're going to come out in the second half and show the real team.' I just lit up Russ, and I said, 'Listen, son, I'm going to tell you why Chane Behanan's not bad. I'm using the excuse that he had a bad summer to motivate him. But the reason he's having bad games is you're not getting him the ball. I said, "we're getting him the ball..you have a great player if you throw him the ball.
"I think they came out [in the second half] and heard it loud and clear and Chane had a great game. I'm so proud of Chane, he's a warrior and gave us great minutes tonight. I don't mind Russ taking a lot of shots, but the shots he was taking were ridiculous. We've got to understand if we're going to be a championship-caliber team it's got to be 7,8, 9 guys that can play the game. Wayne [Blackshear], Luke [Hancock], Kevin [Ware], everybody can play the game and that's how you can have a team that's highly motivated to play every night. The greatest lesson we learned tonight is we're not the Russ Smith show. We're not 9-1 if it wasn't for Russ Smith, but he learned a valuable lesson. He's got to motivate our frontcourt. Our frontcourt is better than it's played." -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino
"I thought we had a chance to win the game. We had a 10-point lead in the second half and they hit three back-to-back-to-back threes. We were in a zone to protect our foul trouble. They were 1-of-8 in the first half from three, and they hadn’t shot well from three all year long. We have to give them credit for making them. We had 24 turnovers, that was quite a bit. They had their points off of turnovers, 29-14. This one stings. The guys played hard bottom line. It was a good basketball game." -- Memphis coach Josh Pastner
Louisville needed Chane Behanan to step his game up against a physical Memphis frontcourt without Gorgui Dieng. The 6-7 sophomore power forward delivered one of his best performances, scoring a team-high 22. Behanan made 7-12 shots and connected on 7-8 free throws. He also grabbed three rebounds and two steals.
Louisville didn't disrupt Memphis defensively early in the game and the Tigers took advantage. But the Cardinals turned up the pressure and forced 24 turnovers, including nine steals. Turnovers proved key to Louisville getting back in the game, then pulling away in the second half. UofL forced Memphis point guard Joe Jackson into eight turnovers, and had a 29-14 edge in point off turnovers.
Louisville trailed Memphis 25-9 midway through the first half. Russ Smith wasn't playing well and the Cards were on the ropes. So Peyton Siva took charge. The senior guard scored seven straight points to cut Memphis' lead to 27-19 and get the Cards back in the game. At winning time, Siva scored scored seven more, hitting five of six FT's in the final minute. In the end, UofL's talented senior delivered 19 points, 7 assists, four rebounds and blocked a shot.
With 12:26 remaining, Memphis led 54-44 after Geron Johnson's steal and dunk. That's when Louisville stepped up and assumed control of the contest. Luke Hancock ignited a 13-0 run over the next 2:28 with a big three-pointer as Louisville went ahead 57-54 with 9:58 left. Behanan drilled his only three of the game shortly after Hancock's, then Hancock followed with his third trifeca of the afternoon. Louisville never trailed again in the game.
24 - Memphis made eight more field goals than Louisville. But Rick Pitino's team made 38 free throws, 24 more than Memphis. That was the difference in the contest. The Cardinals made 83 percent from the line for the game, including an amazing 21-22 in the final 10 minutes of the contest. In the last 60 seconds, Russ Smith made all six of his foul shots to ice the game.
Louisville has been the best road team in the Big East since joining the league in 2005, and Pitino's bunch showed why at Memphis. The Tigers started fast, but Louisville delivered the knockout punch in the second half thanks to relentless defense, timely three-point shooting, clutch foul shooting and a monster performance by Chane Behanan. The NCAA selection experts will call Louisville's comeback at Memphis, a "signature win," when they seed the brackets in March. More importantly for Pitino's bunch, the Cardinals showed the toughness to overcome a big deficit against a talented rival in a hostile environment, then deliver a decisive knockout blow at the end. To do all that without center Gorgui Dieng speaks volumes about Louisville's depth.
Louisville hosts FIU Wednesday night at the KFC Yum Center.