Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 66, #5 Saint Louis 51

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Luke Hancock Seems to Always Save the Day

Luke Hancock Seems to Always Save the Day

  1. Ugly Wins Are Still Wins. Wins are wins, and NCAA Tournament wins are NCAA Tournament wins, but for the second consecutive game, Louisville got into a rockfight with a team that wanted to play uglyball. And uglyball they played, which is yet another reason why these Cardinals are so dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino’s team would prefer to get up and down the floor and score in transition, but when called upon, they can also get into these defensive slugfests and still come through victorious. How does 12-of-33 shooting from a starting backcourt sound? How about 16-of-24 from the line? What about 19 turnovers? It wasn’t a pretty weekend for Rick Pitino’s team here in Orlando, but they’ve survived and advanced, and that’s all that matters.
  2. At Some Point Luke Hancock Won’t Come Through, Right? On Thursday night it was Hancock’s steal, bucket and back-to-back treys that finally gave his team the breathing room it needed to put away a scrappy Albany team. Today it was his back-to-back threes to break Saint Louis’ momentum coming out of the half that allowed the Cards to regain their footing with a workable margin (8-10 points in this game was like 15-18 points in most). His 21 points on 6-0f-15 shooting wasn’t highly efficient, but it more than picked up for this teammates Russ Smith and Chris Jones, who combined for 6-of-18 shooting and spent much of the game mired in a funk. But as already mentioned, Hancock’s greatest value over the weekend was more the timeliness of his shooting and play-making than his overall numbers.
  3. Saint Louis Got the Game It Wanted. It just couldn’t take complete advantage. An 0h-fer from the three-point line (0-of-16) did not help, especially considering that the Billikens came in shooting a solid 36.6 percent from distance and gathering 31.1 percent of its total points from there. But defensively Saint Louis did what it wanted, and it showed in the Louisville players’ frustration for much of the game. The problem was on the offensive end — stop us if you’re heard this before. Saint Louis experienced too many long scoring droughts for the Billikens to make a sustained run — seven minutes in the first half; five minutes in the second — and Louisville, despite its awful foul shooting rate — wasn’t about to fall into the late-game trap that NC State blindly wandered into two days ago.

Star of the Game. Luke Hancock, Louisville. No need to rehash his contributions other than to say he has been Louisville’s most important player during this year’s NCAA Tournament. 

Quotable:

  • “This has been the best time of my life the last three years, but this team is difficult to coach. Very difficult to coach.” — Rick Pitino, on some of the struggles he has getting his team to understand the team’s overall objectives.
  • “We wanted to smother the three. We felt that if we gave up the three, we could get beat tonight.” — Pitino, referring to the 0-of-16 performance that Louisville held Saint Louis to, calling it the key to winning the game.

Sights & Sounds. One of the regrets of the NCAA’s pod system is that the Third Round winners don’t match up against each other next, which takes away some of the “‘let’s scout who we play next” aspect of tournament basketball. Still, a good number of Florida fans stuck around for this one, sitting mostly on their hands but taking the side of the underdog Billikens when they made their run in the second half.

What’s Next? The Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis for Louisville, as the Cards are now 12-1 in the last three NCAA Tournaments. For Saint Louis, the season ends in the round of 32 for the third straight year. You star to wonder if the program that Rick Majerus and Jim Crews have developed there has reached a virtual ceiling with its style of play. Perhaps a difference-making offensive talent can change that.

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