AAC M5: 01.10.14 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 10th, 2014

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  1. In a rivalry game that had huge implications for the AAC race, Memphis handed Louisville its first home loss since last January, dominating the last several minutes to win 73-67. According to KenPom’s win probability chart, Louisville had essentially iced the game with less than four minutes left, at which point the likelihood of a Cardinals victory was between 90% and 95%. The tables quickly turned as Memphis then went on a 14-3 run to end the game, with Shaq Goodwin, Geron Johnson, and Joe Jackson all making it to the line repeatedly and hitting almost every free throw. The Tigers looked decisive and dialed in, particularly in their half-court defense, whereas Louisville surrendered easy drives to the basket and failed to run coherent plays on offense down the stretch. “You can’t win when you let the other team shoot 51 percent,” lamented Louisville coach Rick Pitino. “We got confused on defense a couple of times at the end. I don’t know why. We didn’t get confused one time last year. We just aren’t as good on defense as we were last year.” Louisville’s loss gave Cincinnati sole possession of first place in the conference and deprived the Cardinals of what would have been their first top-25 win this season.
  2. Rick Pitino revealed prior to last night’s game that junior guard Kevin Ware would miss the remainder of the season as he recovers from a leg injury suffered in a recent practice. Watching Ware play early in the season, it was clear he wasn’t back to full speed, and with the weapons in Louisville’s backcourt there was little he could really contribute this season beyond narrative fulfillment. He’ll have an opportunity to make much more of an impact next season after Russ Smith and Luke Hancock graduate, so redshirting Ware and ensuring his leg heals properly is a no-brainer. Nonetheless, losing Ware and dismissed forward Chane Behanan – two significant cogs in last year’s championship season – seems likely to affect the team psychologically to some extrent.
  3. In case you’re not terribly familiar with the Louisville-Memphis rivalry, look no further than the scene after the buzzer in the Yum! Center last night for sociological context. Dan Lyons of RTC and College Spun compiled a quick rundown of the spectacle that unfolded on the floor and in the tunnel, which apparently culminated with Memphis coach Josh Pastner exchanging insults and invitations to fight with Louisville fans and at least one player’s father. A Memphis reserve had reportedly stoked the flames by brandishing a pair of middle fingers on his way off the court, and it seems Pastner ended up defending his team against one or more fans who had called his players “thugs.” (And if that’s the case, big ups to coach Pastner: let’s go ahead and retire that word from sports, forever.) The debacle reflected the long and vitriolic shared history of the two teams, and some fans of the rivalry — myself included — wouldn’t have it any other way.
  4. In a battle of the hitherto winless, USF went to Philadelphia last night and claimed their first AAC victory, knocking off the favored Temple Owls 82-75. In doing so, the Bulls handed Temple an 0-3 league record and the program’s worst start since the 2003-04 season. If you haven’t been reading Voodoo Five’s “American Inventions” series, you missed the elaborate historical metaphor that prophesized the Bulls’ come-from-behind road win: “[T]he Liberty Bell serves as inspiration for the downtrodden and 0-2 folks everywhere. If Philadelphia can morph a useless hunk of metal into a usable bell that became a symbol of American freedom, why can’t the Bulls snap the losing streak tonight in the City of Brotherly Love and inject some life into the Bulls’ still-young season?” The jury is still out on whether the Bulls will generate any real momentum from knocking off a paper-thin Temple team, but we’ll find out soon enough. USF plays their next six games against Cincinnati, Memphis, Louisville, and SMU.
  5. Cincinnati freshman Jermaine Lawrence is out indefinitely with a sprained toe, according to coach Mick Cronin. The 6’9”, 205-pound Lawrence, a four-/five-star prospect and the crown jewel of Cronin’s 2013 recruiting class, has averaged 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in about 17 minutes per game this season. He sat out Tuesday’s close win over Houston, and there is apparently no timetable in place for his return. Looking at the Bearcats’ upcoming schedule, which is about to enter a butter-soft stretch until a visit to Louisville on January 30, it’s unlikely that Lawrence’s absence will be a difference maker. But Cronin could certainly use the athleticism and extra fouls Lawrence provides in the second half of the AAC schedule, especially considering starting forwards Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson are committing 5.0 and 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively.
Will Tucker (116 Posts)

Kentucky native living and working in Washington, D.C. I write for RTC’s American Athletic Conference microsite in my spare time. Aside from college hoops, other sources of spiritual fulfillment include road trips, tacos, and bourbon. I try to incorporate all of them into my writing.


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